Speaking multiple languages helps protect brain function after a stroke, according to a study recently published in the American Heart Association journal Stroke.
Conducted at the Nizam’s Institute of Medical Sciences in India, this study investigated the link between fluency in multiple languages and cognitive outcomes after stroke. Research suggests that being bilingual helps slow cognitive aging and may delay onset of dementia—a mental decline that interferes with daily life. Since stroke often impacts brain function, experts wonder whether speaking multiple languages helps protect patients from permanent damage.
To learn more, researchers analyzed data from a stroke registry at the Nizam’s Institute of Medical Sciences. Similar to national registries in the United States, this registry tracks stroke patients to learn more about cardiovascular risk factors and improve outcomes related to stroke.
After reviewing records, researchers identified 608 patients that suffered ischemic stroke between 2006 and 2013. Ischemic stroke is the most common type of stroke that occurs when blood supply to the brain is blocked, potentially causing permanent brain damage or even death.
Based on follow-up evaluations, researchers found that bilingual patients were twice as likely to have normal brain function after a stroke as those who spoke one language. Bilingual patients also performed better than single language patients in factors related to attention, memory and organization.
As authors explain, it’s no surprise that being bilingual s linked to improved brain function. When speaking multiple languages, people have to switch from one language to another. This helps stimulate the brain from a young age, potentially delaying mental decline.
However, this is the first study to show that speaking multiple languages may improve brain function after stroke. Stroke is a leading cause of death and disability across the globe. Each year, 15 million people worldwide suffer a stroke—1/3 of whom are left permanently disabled.
The good news is that keeping the brain stimulated may help protect against brain damage from stroke. Through further research, experts hope to better understand cardiovascular risk factors and improve outcomes for the millions of patients affected by stroke.