Although humans are living longer, more of those extra years are being spent in ill health, often with multiple chronic conditions. Ageing is a global issue — the number of people aged 65 and older is projected to almost triple to 1.5 billion around the world by 2050. But a study by Emily Rogalski, a professor of cognitive neurology at Northwestern University in Chicago, has found that counter-intuitive lifestyle factors are increasingly being looked at as integral to maintaining cognitive function of human beings well into old age. Here are the key findings at a glance:

• Most super agers were found to take up a second career

• They also had a more positive outlook, were more active and had a very active social life

• A majority of those studied (71 per cent) were smokers who gained weight and drink coffee

• They did tend to sleep at least eight hours a night

• There was no “magic bullet” in terms of diet: they don’t eat more blueberries and some really liked their burgers and French fries

• Some even had dementia tangles in their brains, but had better brain function than people in their 50s.

• Such superagers had a high proportion of the Von Economo neuron, which offer high-speed connections to the brain

• The so-called 90+ study analysed people aged 80 to 100 who seem resilient to cognitive decline

• The study could help to provide a breakthrough in new dementia research