Speaking more than one language could reduce dementia risk

Early symptoms of dementia explained in NHS video

From boosting memory to reducing dementia risk, speaking more than one language is beneficial for your health.

According to the Glasgow Memory Clinic, multilinguists benefit from greater cognitive reserve, meaning the brain is more resilient against Alzheimer’s disease, for example.

A recent study, published in the Neurobiology of Aging journal, found that older patients who had used two languages from a young age scored higher in multiple tests.

Multilingual patients scored higher on tests for learning, memory and language compared to those who only spoke one language.

Neuroscientists believe multilinguists switching between two or more languages could help to stave off dementia from developing.

Dr Blanco-Elorrieta said: “The advantage of being bilingual doesn’t really lie on these milliseconds of advantage that one can have in a cognitive task.

“I think the importance of being bilingual is being able to communicate with two cultures and two ways of seeing the world.”

Cognitive reserve

Professor Yaakov Stern of Columbia University, from Age UK, explained what cognitive reserve is.

“Cognitive reserve is the idea that people develop a reserve of thinking abilities during their lives,” Professor Stern noted.

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“And that this protects them against losses that can occur through ageing and disease.”

Certain factors can influence a person’s cognitive reserve, such as education and having an engaging occupation.

Additional influences can include leisure activities, learning and social interactions.

Alzheimer’s Research UK states: “Building cognitive reserve could protect against memory and thinking decline.”

To build cognitive reserve, Dr Sara Imarisio recommended “trying new activities” and “keeping connected with friends and family”.

Dr Imarisio added: “A mix of factors affect our brain health – some of these we can control, for example looking after our heart health.

“We cannot control factors like our genes, which is why it is also important to consider the impact of risk genes for the diseases that cause dementia.”

Dr Imarisio stated: “The best current evidence suggests that not smoking, only drinking in moderation, staying mentally, physically and socially active, eating a balanced diet, and keeping cholesterol and blood pressure levels in check can all help to keep our brains healthy as we age.”

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