Speaking more than one language is good for the brain. According to a new study, bilingualism can help delay cognitive decline and brain diseases, including Alzheimer's disease and dementia.
Alzheimer's disease is a brain disorder that leads to destruction of memory and other important functions of the brain. It is one of the most common causes of dementia, a syndrome that leads to memory loss, difficulty in communicating, thinking, understanding, judgment, planning and the ability to perform daily routines.
According to the World Health Organization, nearly 35.6 million people around the world are affected with dementia and nearly 7.7 million new cases are reported every year.
The findings of the new study are based on a joint investigation conducted by a team of researchers from the University of Edinburgh in UK and Nizam's Institute of Medical Sciences in Hyderabad, India.
Nearly 650 people diagnosed with dementia participated in the study. Researchers collected information about the age when each participant developed the disorder. They found that knowing and speaking more than one language helped delay the onset of brain disorders like Alzheimer's disease, vascular dementia and frontotemporal dementia. Bilingual patients developed the diseases almost five years later than the monolingual participants. Even illiterate people benefited from knowing more than one language.
The results remained the same, though other factors like gender, education, location or occupation were taken into consideration.
Switching from one language to another helps train the brain, while explaining the occurrence, the researchers said.
"These findings suggest that bilingualism might have a stronger influence on dementia that any currently available drugs. This makes the study of the relationship between bilingualism and cognition one of our highest priorities," Thomas Bak from the University of Edinburgh's School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences, said in a news release.
The study has been published in the journal Neurology.
Similar to the current study, several studies in the past have shown the importance of brain stimulating activities in keeping the brain healthy. A study published earlier this year reported that engaging in activities like reading, writing throughout life helped boost brain power and decrease the risk of memory loss and dementia.
Following are some tips from the Mayo Clinic in the US to prevent memory loss and risk of dementia:
- Always keep the mind active by engaging in brain stimulating activities like puzzles, word games or memory training
- Engaging in studies. According to the experts, formal education can help prevent cognitive decline
- Spare some time for physical activity and to interact with people
- Manage blood pressure as high blood pressure is associated with increased risk of developing dementia
- Stop smoking
- Follow a healthy lifestyle with a balanced diet