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Speaking More Than One Language Could Delay The Onset Of Dementia, Study Says

11/06/2013 04:01 pm ET | Updated Nov 07, 2013
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Here's some good news for the bilingual folks. You may have a better chance of delaying the onset of several different dementias, just by speaking a second language, a new study says.

Researchers looked at 648 dementia patients in India, with an average age of 66, and found that people who spoke two or more languages developed dementia 4.5 years later than patients who only spoke one language. The participants in the study suffered from various types of dementia including Alzheimer's, frontotemporal dementia, and vascular dementia.

"Speaking more than one language is thought to lead to better development of the areas of the brain that handle executive functions and attention tasks," study author Suvarna Alladi, of Nizam's Institute of Medical Sciences, said in a release.

Other research has also indicated a link between speaking multiple languages and a delayed onset of dementia. A Canadian study in 2011 found that switching between languages stimulates the brain, helping to build a "cognitive reserve," The Guardian reported. This means the brain is better able to fend off cognitive decline, which helps with brain function as we age.

Researchers say the new findings are significant since the study took literacy into consideration. Nearly 15 of the study participants were illiterate, meaning a person's education level doesn't necessarily impact the seemingly protecting effects of speaking more than one language.

"These results offer strong evidence for the protective effect of bilingualism against dementia in a population very different from those studied so far in terms of its ethnicity, culture and patterns of language use," Alladi said.

Well there you have it. Another reason to go study that foreign language you've been meaning to learn.

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