Big vocabulary could help fight Alzheimer’s

People with more words at their disposal might be at lower risk of developing Alzheimer's, a surprising new study by Spanish scientists shows.

Researchers at Spain's Santiago de Compostela University say a large vocabulary can in itself serve as a protection against the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

According to a study published by researchers at the university in the Annals of Psychology, a varied vocabulary helps to prevent major cognitive impairment.

The researchers sought to study different factors which influence the strength of elderly people’s cognitive reserve — the term used to describe the mind's resistance to damage of the brain. 

“We focused on the level of vocabulary, taking into account that it is considered to be an indicator of crystallized intelligence [or what we learn over a lifetime]. What we wanted to do was to delve deeper into its relationship with cognitive reserve” Santiago University’s Cristina Lojo Seoane explained to Spanish newspaper 20 Minutos.

The team analysed regression data and calculated the probability of deterioration in the case of each individual in the study on the basis of their vocabulary level. The study group was made up of 326 people, comprising one group of over 50s in good health and the other showing slight cognitive impairment.

Their vocabulary was studied, as well as other factors such as education, the complexity of their working activity, reading habits and their performance in various tests such as the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale.  

The results showed a greater prevalence of only light cognitive deterioration among those participants who had scored highly in vocabulary. "This led us to conclude that a richer vocabulary, as a measure of cognitive reserve, can serve as a protection against cognitive impairment," Lojo Seoane concluded. 

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