Walk Bilingually - Alzheimer's Disease



As we age, the ability to perform complex tasks such as planning, scheduling and multitasking, and our ability to adapt to unfamiliar circumstances, both start to decline. Neuroscientists think that having more reserve brain power helps compensate for age-related declines in thinking and memory, and may help protect against the losses caused by Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia.

A recent study found that walking is one of the best ways to slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Just five miles a week walking can reduce the chance of developing it also. Walking strengthens the brain’s memory circuits and can help reduce memory loss over time.

Other research indicates that being bilingual also helps. The study suggests that the regions of the brain involved in switching from one language to another overlap with regions involved in switching from one task to another. Bilingual people constantly have to exercise this brain system to prevent their two languages from interfering with one another. Their brains must sort through multiple options for each word, switch back and forth between the two languages, and keep everything straight. They do it by exercising a brain network called the executive control system more. The executive control system involves parts of the prefrontal cortex and other brain areas, and is the basis of our ability to think in complex ways.

Other ways to keep cognitive abilities sharp include reading the newspaper every day, taking up a new hobby or learning a new skill. The greater the novelty and challenge of the activity, the larger the deposit in the brain’s reserves. In other words, people who continue learning new things are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.