Young adults could help stave off the early symptoms of Alzheimer's disease by going to university and then choosing a mentally demanding occupation, according to new research.
Scientists found that those people showing signs of neurological damage associated with Alzheimer's who had a long education and a challenging job appeared to suffer less memory loss.
Mental stimulation may cushion the effects of the disease, researchers believe.
"The theory is that education and demanding jobs create a buffer against the effects of dementia on the brain, or a cognitive reserve," said Dr Valentina Garibotto, from San Raffaele University in Milan, Italy.
The results showed that among people with equal levels of memory impairment, those who had been through long periods of education and taken on mentally demanding jobs had significantly more Alzheimer's-related changes in their brains.
However, their memories were no worse than others who had suffered less neurological damage from Alzheimer's, suggesting that they were somehow being protected by their education and occupational background.