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The potential link between language & Alzheimer's Disease

2:56 PM, May 16, 2013   |    comments
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Around 5.2 million Americans are currently suffering from Alzheimer's disease and by 2050, the number of people age 65 and older with Alzheimer's is projected to nearly triple to around 13.8 million.

So what can you do now to possibly offset Alzheimer's? You might be able to use the power of speech.

"There is actually a huge amount of research that shows us that people who speak two or more languages tend to decline less rapidly than those who don't," tells Dr. Tannahill Glen, a Neuropsychologist with Shands Jacksonville Medical Center.

In a study published in the magazine "Neurology", the Official Journal of the American Academy of Neurology, researchers found that bilingual patients were diagnosed around 4.3 years later and had an onset of symptoms around 5 years later than patients that only spoke one language.

At UNF Janice Kinley, who lost her mother to Alzheimer's, is keeping her mind active by taking Spanish.

"Maybe I won't get Alzheimer's or maybe I won't get it as bad, I don't know, but it excites me to learn it, it excites me to study it," Kinley detailed as she readied for her exam.

She said being diagnosed with Alzheimer's is a concern for her and her three sisters.

"Now my sisters and I are worried and nervous all the time, thinking oh my gosh are we going to get it? We are nervous all the time, every time we forget something or misplace something," explained Kinley.

But so far Janice and her sisters are all still sharp as a tack. Any type of activity that stimulates your mind is helpful in the fight against Alzheimer's, but there is something about language that is very beneficial.

"More of the brain is activated, it seems to be activated on a constant basis because when you have two or more languages going you don't just shut one down and use another one, it's always active," according to Dr. Glen.

If learning a new language is too daunting, Dr. Glen suggests finding any new activity or skill you are comfortable with and trying it. For those starting to have trouble remembering things, Dr. Glen suggests when you go to the store trying to keep track of your items in your head.

It is important to note this research is not at the point where it can definitely say it prevents Alzheimer's and there still is no cure for the disease.

Although anytime you try something new or something that stimulates your mind, especially before the onset of Alzheimer's it definitely doesn't hurt.

Link to study on Alzheimer's and Language: http://www.neurology.org/content/75/19/1726.short?sid=5e392dfc-0a3a-4fd8-8e1a-2731da84907d

Alzheimer's Association: http://www.alz.org/

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