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7 suggestions for learning a second language to prevent dementia

Harold Mandel's picture
The electrifying human brain

As the baby boom generation ages there are deepening concerns about a catastrophic rise in dementia cases. There are ways you can try to prevent being hit with dementia. Healthy lifestyle changes including more daily exercise and meditation, eating nutritious foods, avoidance of alcohol and drugs, and mind exercises are all important to help you keep your brain healthy. A new study shows that speaking a second language is a particularly helpful way to work your brain out and keep yourself from being hit with dementia.

Natural remedies can help prevent dementia

Reporting on how a healthy diet can keep your mind healthy, EmaxHealth reporter Kathleen Blanchard, RN has written on findings of a link between the Mediterranean diet and lower dementia risk. EmaxHealth reporter Robin Wulffson, MD has reviewed the interesting finding that coffee has been reported to ward off dementia. A report on how reading and games can help keep your brain healthy has been done by EmaxHealth reporter Tamar Najarian.

Bilingualism delays the age at onset of dementia

The journal Neurology has published a review of research showing that bilingualism delays the age at onset of dementia. In this study, overall it was found that patients who were bilingual developed dementia 4.5 years later than patients who spoke only one language. There was a particularly significant difference observed in age at onset with Alzheimer disease dementia as well as frontotemporal dementia and vascular dementia, and in illiterate patients. The positive language effect on dementia was not improved any further with the speaking of more than 2 languages. It has been concluded by this study that there is a significant delayed onset of dementia in bilingual patients.

7 suggestions for learning a second language to prevent dementia

WikiHow makes some interesting suggesting on how to learn a new language.

1: Learn 10 to 20 essential words a day

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2: Always have a dictionary with you.

3: Learn whole sentences, which might be used daily.

4: Work on your pronunciation of those words.

5: Keep practicing it, even though you are alone.

6: Try watching movies/serials/news in that language

7: If you are just starting, watch Sesame Street in that language.

The American Academy of Neurology offers an interesting discussion of the research findings that a second language may delay the onset of different dementias. This study has demonstrated that speaking a second language may delay the onset of various types of dementias. It was observed in this study that patients who spoke a second language had a significantly delayed onset of dementia in comparison with people who did not speak more than one language.

Study author Suvarna Alladi, DM, who is associated with Nizam's Institute of Medical Sciences in Hyderabad, India, has said, “Our study is the first to report an advantage of speaking two languages in people who are unable to read, suggesting that a person’s level of education is not a sufficient explanation for this difference.” Alladi has gone on the explain that it appears speaking more than one language leads to healthier development areas of the brain that are vital for dealing with executive functions and attention tasks, and which may therefore help to protect you from developing dementia.

It has been my observation that dementia is a devastating condition which tragically steals the capacity to enjoy long and productive lives. Loved ones in particular suffer the most from financial problems and emotional pain that is associated with caring for a family member with dementia. An understanding that there are natural manners to help prevent the onset of dementia should prompt a greater commitment to adhering to healthy lifestyles.

The emphasis in the lay press seems to have been on how healthy lifestyles can help prevent heart disease, which is true and very significant. However, consider the sad fate of having a healthy heart with a dead brain. Added measures to a healthy lifestyle, such as literally exercising the brain with challenging mental tasks and learning and using a second language, should be stressed to help maintain brain health for as long as possible.



I would make a few other suggestions: Learn catch phrases that you can compare with a language you already know Learn songs or parts of songs that are easy to remember and can create a rhythm in your mind Use hand gestures or physical visuals to help you remember words and phrases Compare with a language that has a similar sentence structure to help imprint in your mind Chunk words together under certain categories in your mind. Start with vocabulary around the house, then with friends, then in a market, etc. It helps keeps things in perspective.