Learning Another Language 'Could Protect Against Dementia'

The Huffington Post UK  |  By Posted: 30/03/2012 10:24 Updated: 30/03/2012 10:45

Language Dementia

Learning another language could help delay the onset of dementia by up to four years, academics claim.

Researchers from York University in Toronto, Canada, analysed hospital records of patients diagnosed with a variety of types of dementia and found that those who were bilingual throughout their lives delayed the onset of the disease by three to four years.

They wrote in the journal Trends In Cognitive Sciences: "In spite of being equivalent on a variety of cognitive and other factors, the bilinguals experienced onset and symptoms and were diagnosed approximately three to four years later than the monolinguals.

"Specifically, monolingual patients were diagnosed on average at age 75.4 years and bilinguals at age 78.6 years.”

But it’s not only those who are completely bilingual that could benefit from the findings. The researchers reported that any attempt at learning a second language was likely to be beneficial. However, the earlier the language is learned and the more often it is used, the better.

"If bilingualism is protective against some forms of dementia, then middle-aged people will want to know whether it is too late to learn another language, or whether their high-school French will count towards cognitive reserve," they said.

"A related question concerns the age of acquisition of a second language: is earlier better?

"The best answer at present is that early age of acquisition, overall fluency, frequency of use, levels of literacy and grammatical accuracy all contribute to the bilingual advantage, with no single factor being decisive.”

Dr Marie Janson of Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: 
“We know there are several lifestyle factors – such as healthy eating, exercise and mental activity – that could help to reduce our risk of dementia. This review discusses the evidence that keeping our brains active by switching between different languages could help to resist some of the damage caused by dementia, delaying the onset of symptoms.

“More research is needed to tease apart the most beneficial aspects of bilingualism – whether it is the age we starting learning, how fluent we are or how much we use the language in everyday life. With 820,000 people in the UK living with dementia and this number expected to rise, it is vital to invest in research to understand more about how to prevent or delay the onset of this devastating condition.”

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  • Lifestyle Changes To Help Prevent Dementia

  • Drink Decaffeinated Coffee

    A study at Mount Sinai School of Medicine found that <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/02/01/decaffeinated-coffee-preserves-memory-diabetes_n_1246240.html" target="_hplink">decaffeinated coffee improves the brain's energy metabolism - linked to cognitive decline</a> - in those with Type 2 diabetes. "This is the first evidence showing the potential benefits of decaffeinated coffee preparations for both preventing and treating cognitive decline caused by type 2 diabetes, ageing, and/ or neurodegenerative disorders," said lead researcher, Dr Giulio Maria Pasinett.

  • Play Brain-Teasing Games

    Everyday <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2011/12/01/puzzles-and-exercise-help-beat-dementia-symptoms_n_1122502.html" target="_hplink">games, puzzles and tasks were able to postpone decline in cognitive function and the ability to carry out everyday tasks, in dementia patients, for at least a year</a>, according to research from the University of Erlangen in Germany, published in the journals BMC Medicine.

  • Eat Less

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2011/12/20/eat-less-remember-more-and-other-memory-boosters_n_1160584.html" target="_hplink">Eating fewer calories could help boost memory and cognitive function</a>, according to a study at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Rome. Researchers hope to mimic the same effect with a drug in the future, bringing hope to Alzheimer's sufferers as well as those suffering from injury-related memory loss.

  • Eat Fish

    Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Centre and School of Medicine found that <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2011/11/30/eating-fish-protects-against-alzheimers_n_1120156.html" target="_hplink">people who ate baked or grilled fish regularly reduced their risk of developing Alzheimer's</a>. Reseracher Cyrus Raji said: "The results showed that people who consumed baked or broiled (grilled) fish at least one time per week had better preservation of grey matter volume on MRI in brain areas at risk for Alzheimer's disease."

  • Play The Wii Fit

    <a href="http://lifestyle.aol.co.uk/2012/01/17/why-a-wii-workout-could-be-better-than-the-gym-for-over-50s/" target="_hplink">Working out using virtual games such as the Wii Fit could slow cognitive decline in the over 50s</a>, researchers from Union College in the US found. Participants aged between 58 and 99 were given a 3D exercise game to play. Compared to the control group who were asked to use a regular exercise bike, the 'cybercycle' group had a 23% decrease in advancement of mild cognitive impairment and showed improved 'executive function'.

  • Do The Seven-Step Plan

    A study in The Lancet Neurology suggest that <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2011/07/19/new-study-shows-seven-way_n_901934.html" target="_hplink">3m cases of Alzheimer's across the world could be prevented in seven simple ways</a>. The report recommends quitting smoking, increasing physical activity, controlling your blood pressure and diabetes risk factors as well as managing depression and obesity to help combat the disease.

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