Ageing may be inevitable, but staying physically and mentally active is the key to maintaining a youthful brain, says a new study.

“Although some memory functions do tend to decline as we get older, several elderly show well preserved functioning and this is related to a well-preserved, youth-like brain,” says Lars Nyberg of the Umea University in Sweden who led the study.

Education won’t save your brain - PhDs are as likely as high-school dropouts to experience memory loss with old age, says Nyberg, adding don’t count on your job either.

Those with a complex or demanding career may enjoy limited advantage, but those benefits quickly dwindle after retirement, the study said, the journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences reports.

Engagement is the secret to success. Those who are socially, mentally and physically stimulated reliably show better cognitive performance with a brain that appears younger than its years, according to an Umea statement.

“There is quite solid evidence that staying physically and mentally active is a way towards brain maintenance,” Nyberg says.

According to the research, this new take on successful ageing represents an important shift in focus for the field. Much attention in the past has gone instead to understanding ways in which the brain copes with or compensates for cognitive decline in ageing.

Elderly people generally do have more trouble remembering meetings or names, Nyberg says. But those memory losses often happen later than many often think, after the age of 60. Older people also continue to accumulate knowledge and to use what they know effectively, often to very old ages, the researcher adds.

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