Everyone who suffers a stroke is affected differently, with widely varying rates of recovery. But now a new study has shown that a highly desirable skill could be the key to a better outcome after a stroke, and if you don’t already have this skill you can start developing it right now.
An examination of the recovery rates of people who had had a stroke in Hyderabad, India, showed that those who were bilingual recovered twice as well as those who only spoke one language.
The study was carried out by a team from the University of Edinburgh and Nizam’s Institute of Medical Sciences in Hyderabad, and the researchers found that around 40 per cent of bilingual patients had normal mental function following a stroke, compared with 20 per cent of single language patients.
The stroke patients were assessed on attention skills and the ability to retrieve and organise information.
Researchers took into account lifestyle factors such as smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes and age to ensure results could not be attributed to having a healthier lifestyle, but still the results showed that bilingual people fared better after stroke.
Other studies have previously shown that people who speak more than one language develop dementia several years later than people who speak one.
It’s believed the mental challenge of speaking multiple languages can boost what’s called cognitive reserve – an improved ability of the brain to cope with damaging events such as stroke or dementia. Switching from one language to another provides the opportunity for ongoing brain training, which is believed to help stroke patients recover.
Stroke is the second most important cause of cognitive disability after dementia.
More research is needed to determine the exact circumstances under which bilingualism can have a positive influence on mental functions.
Do you speak another language? Would you like to learn one – or are you currently studying? Say hello in the languages you know!