To some extent, dementia is just a part of growing old. And as more people live longer, the number of people suffering from dementia is growing as well.
Some estimate the amount of people living with the condition will triple worldwide to 135 million by 2050.
It's a reality that has doctors and policymakers concerned for the capacity of the world's healthcare systems.
But new research shows something as simple as continuing education can help stave off dementia's ill effects. Researchers at Linz University and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria looked at the health implications of educational reforms, which were instituted in six European countries during the 50s and 60s.
In charting the current mental functioning of seniors based on levels of schooling, the researchers were able to show that education boosts brain function -- a mental advantage that persists even as a person gets older. In other words, the more education, the slower cognitive decline.
The results of the study were published last month in the journal Demography.
"Examining the variation in compulsory schooling was key," researcher Rudolf Winter-Ebmer said.
"It allowed us to find out that education was the cause of better cognitive function, and not a simple correlation."