By midlife, many of us have had the heart-wrenching experience of watching a family member or a loved one struggle with dementia. And we wonder what we could do to avoid the same fate. While scientists still don't know exactly how to prevent this terrible disease, they are coming up with some tantalizing research on how to, in effect, immunize your brain – at least for a while.
A recent study, published in the journal Neurology, found that people who were bilingual throughout their lives were apparently able to delay the onset of Alzheimer's disease by more than five years compared to people who only spoke one language even when the monolingual patients were better educated. The scientists say they think that the brains of bilingual people develop extra neural pathways so that even when dementia begins to attack their brains, they have additional resources to keep them going.
This is great news for those of us who already speak two languages, but what about the rest of us? Other research indicates that learning a second language even at midlife may help delay the onset of disabling dementia symptoms. That doesn't mean just learning a few words or phrases; you really have to immerse yourself in the language and become fluent.
For more on dementia prevention, click here.