Strong language skills may help protect people from Alzheimer’s disease later in life, according to a study.
Researchers studied the brains of 38 women after they had died, and found that those with strong language skills in their teens and 20s were less likely to have developed memory problems.
Women with weaker lexicons were more likely to have experienced memory declines as they got older.
The Nun Study - an on-going health investigation involving Roman Catholic nuns in the US - examined women who had joined the convent at a young age.
The nuns had regular tests of memory and mental skills until they died, with researchers analysing essays written by 14 of the women when they began their lives as nuns.
Those who could write essays expressing large numbers of ideas and complex language had a lower incidence of later memory problems, and language scores were 20% higher for nuns whose memories remained intact.
Having good language skills at a young age appeared to protect the memory, even in women whose brains contained the physical hallmarks of Alzheimer’s.