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Stimulating your brain can help you stay mentally healthy in older age

Stimulating the brain by taking on leadership roles at work or staying on in education help people stay mentally healthy in later life, according to new research.

The large-scale investigation, published in the journal PLOS Medicine, involves Newcastle University experts and used data from more than 2,000 mentally fit people over the age of 65.

Scientists examined the theory that experiences in early or mid-life which challenge the brain make people more resilient to changes resulting from age or illness – they have higher “cognitive reserve”.

Resilience to Dementia

The analysis, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, found that people with higher levels of reserve are more likely to stay mentally fit for longer, making the brain more resilient to illnesses such as dementia.

The research team included collaborators from the universities of Newcastle, Exeter, Bangor and Cambridge.

Data was analysed from 2,315 mentally fit participants aged over 65 years who took part in the first wave of interviews for the Cognitive Function and Ageing Study Wales (CFAS-Wales).

Experts analysed whether a healthy lifestyle was associated with better performance on a mental ability test. They found that a healthy diet, more physical activity, more social and mentally stimulating activity and moderate alcohol consumption all seemed to boost cognitive performance.  

Fiona Matthews, Professor of Epidemiology at Newcastle University’s Institute of Health and Society, who is principal statistician on CFAS, is a co-author of the study.

She said: “Many of the factors found here to be important are not only healthy for our brain, but also help at younger age avoiding heart disease”.

For the full article please visit the Newcastle University website.

Published on 21st April


Add a comment
  • Ian Fairclough
    17th May 2017

    "Data was analysed from 2,315 mentally fit participants" - I wonder what the "mentally fit" means?

    What are the tests you take to be assessed as "mentally fit."

    "mentally fit" to do what?