That’s Hungarian for “How many languages do you speak?”
Turns out that if the answer is at least two, your chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease will be delayed an average of five years.
Being bilingual is just one way people develop a “cognitive reserve,” which can prevent or delay dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Scientists use the term cognitive reserve to describe the extent of the brain’s capacity to resist aging and degenerative conditions (like Alzheimer’s disease).
The researcher who determined that being multilingual can lead to greater longevity theorizes that the lifelong mental exercise required to speak multiple tongues — remembering which word belongs to which language — helps bilinguals augment their “cognitive reserves.”
Không nói được một ngôn ngữ thứ hai? (Don’t speak a second language?)
There are other ways to build that cognitive reserve. But it’s important to start early, and make an effort often. A new study suggests that mental activity can offset the effects not just of degenerative diseases, but of normal aging as well. An article this month published in Neurobiology of Aging found that elderly and middle-aged musicians had better hearing and faster auditory responses than non-musicians half their age. Researchers said this indicated the “mental rigor required by the practice of music acted as an antidote to aging, keeping their nervous systems youthful,” reported Time Magazine.
So learn a musical instrument. Practice that French you learned in middle school. Read. Engage in conversation. Build that cognitive reserve and be proactive about delaying the onset of aging.