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AAN: Multilingualism May Help Protect Against Cognitive Issues

Seniors who speak more than two languages have lower risk of cognitive problems

WEDNESDAY, Feb. 23 (HealthDay News) -- Senior citizens who speak more than two languages have a lower risk of developing cognitive impairment, according to research released Feb. 22 to be presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology, which will be held from April 9 to 16 in Honolulu.

Magali Perquin, Ph.D., of the Public Research Center for Health in Luxembourg, and colleagues evaluated 230 men and women, mean age 72.5 years, who had spoken or currently spoke two to seven languages, including 44 with cognitive problems.

As compared to seniors who only spoke two languages, the investigators found that those who spoke four or more languages were five times less likely to develop cognitive problems. In addition, as compared to those who spoke two languages, individuals who spoke three languages were three times less likely to have cognitive problems. Individuals who currently spoke more than two languages also were four times less likely to have cognitive impairment.

"Further studies are needed to try to confirm these findings and determine whether the protection is limited to thinking skills related to language or if it also extends beyond that and benefits other areas of cognition," Perquin said in a statement.

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