Bilingualism May Help to Prevent Dementia

For those considering teaching their children a second language – it just got even more intriguing to do so then it already was.  Researchers from York University recently discovered through their research published in the journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences that being bilingual increases cognitive ability – and also makes the brain more resilient in later life.

This finding may point the way to protections against dementia.  The lead of the study, Dr. Ellen Bialystok, said,

“Previous studies have established that bilingualism has a beneficial effect on cognitive development in children. In our paper, we reviewed recent studies using both behavioral and neuroimaging methods to examine the effects of bilingualism on cognition in adults.”

When monitoring those who speak two languages, they found that a bi-lingual person uses brain regions that help with general attention and with cognitive control.  This skill creates “mental flexibility.”

In addition, they found that those who are bilingual improve their “cognitive reserve” and that this reserve can actually help to push back the onset of symptoms in people who have dementia.

As Dr. Bialystok said,

“Our conclusion is that lifelong experience in managing attention to two languages reorganizes specific brain networks, creating a more effective basis for executive control and sustaining better cognitive performance throughout the lifespan. It should not be surprising that intense and sustained experience leaves its mark on our minds and brains, and it is now clear that the bilingual brain has been uniquely shaped by experience.”

Obesity May Cause Cognitive Decline

A recent study involving 250 people has revealed that obesity during senior years may trigger mental decline, and not only physical as previously believed. The study participants, aging through 60s and 70s, were tested over the course of five years. Those with higher body fat levels were less successful in mental ability exams during that time.

The study, conducted by scientists from Seoul National University, measured the waists and BMI levels of each participant regularly, analyzing the information along with the results from ‘Mini Mental State Examinations.’ These short tests included simple questions in math, orientation and memory.

As the researchers predicted, the participants with lower body fat achieved higher scores in the exams. Interestingly, the gap narrowed in people over 70 years of age.

Dae Hyun Yoon, the lead author of the study, said: “Our findings have important public health implications. The prevention of obesity, particularly central obesity, might be important for the prevention of cognitive decline or dementia.”

The UK Alzheimer’s Society said “We have all heard how a high BMI is bad for our heart but this research suggests it could also be bad for the head.” The organization added that dementia wasn’t observed in the study. However, past research has implied that risk factors for high cholesterol, high blood pressure and heart disease can also cause dementia. Of

According to the Society, a third of people over the age of 65 will die with dementia. Still, this study, as well as others, has suggested that a balanced diet, regular exercise, and healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels can change the odds.