A wide vocabulary can help improve the brain's cognitive reserve the name given to the brain's capacity to compensate for the loss of its functions.

"A higher level of vocabulary, as a measure of cognitive reserve, can protect against cognitive impairment," the researchers said.

"We focused on the level of vocabulary as it is considered an indicator of crystallized intelligence (the use of previously acquired intellectual skills)," said study co-author Cristina Lojo Seoane from the University of Santiago de Compostela in Spain.

The cognitive reserve cannot be measured directly; rather, it is calculated through indicators believed to increase this capacity.

The study involved 326 people over the age of 50 - 222 healthy individuals and 104 with mild cognitive impairment. They then measured their levels of vocabulary, along with other measures such as their years of schooling, the complexity of their jobs and their reading habits.

The results revealed a greater prevalence of mild cognitive impairment in participants who achieved a lower vocabulary level score.

The study appeared in the journal Anales de Psicologia (Annals of Psychology).

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