It’s one of the greatest medical myths – that getting old is the cause of a range of illnesses, from dementia, arthritis, heart problems and the rest. In fact, age has nothing to do with it, researchers have discovered.

Older people who remain fit and well through good diet and exercise can expect to live longer than people 15 years younger – and they can remain sharper and fitter, too.

And it’s never too late to get into shape. Researchers found that a quarter of marathon and long-distance athletes aged up to 69 years had started running only five years previously, and they were already enjoying the benefits of exercise.

In a separate study, ‘senior moments’ of sudden memory loss and dementia have nothing to do with growing old, say researchers from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.

Instead, dementia and memory loss are a sign of brain disease, and are not just one of those things that happen to us because we are old. The researchers based their findings on an on-going study of 350 Catholic nuns and priests who have been given memory tests every year for the past 13 years.

(Sources: Deutsches Arzteblatt International, 2010; 107: 809-16 – fitness study; Neurology, 2010; 75L 1070-8 – memory loss study).

via Getting old doesn’t mean getting sick | What Doctors Don’t Tell You.