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Learn a foreign language to age-proof your brain

Thursday 24 February 2011 01:00 GMT

Want to keep your brain sharp? Pick up another language, or even better, several more languages. New research suggests that learning foreign languages can protect your brain from cognitive problems as you grow older - and the more languages you speak, the bigger the mental boost.

According to new research announced February 22, people who speak more than two languages over their lifespan may lower their risks of developing memory problems. The study, which will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology's 63rd Annual Meeting in Honolulu this April, enlisted 230 men and women with an average age of 73 who had spoken or currently spoke two to seven languages.

Researchers discovered that those people who spoke four or more languages were five times less likely to develop cognitive problems compared to the bilinguals. Those who spoke three languages were three times less likely to have memory problems compared to those who spoke two.

Even if you don't speak another language, picking up one at any point in life can help your brain function and even help protect against Alzheimer's disease, according to research by psychologist Ellen Bialystok and her colleagues at York University in Toronto. Last November, another Canadian study was published in the journal Neurology that reported bilingualism could help delay the onset of Alzheimer's symptoms by as long as five years.

Other ways to keep your brain sharp? Author Tony Buzan, an expert on the brain and aging, says it's important to keep learning throughout your life, maintain a healthy diet, and stay as positive and as energetic as possible. Tease your brain daily with games and puzzles, such as chess, bridge, crosswords, or sudoku.

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Watch a video with Tony Buzan on age-proofing your brain:

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