WHO issues first advice on dementia: exercise and don't smoke

Grant Boone
May 17, 2019

About 50 million people now have dementia, and Alzheimer's disease is the most common type.

In recommendations to counter an expected tripling in the number of people with the degenerative condition in the next 30 years, the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines are created to help medical professionals and governments to develop national policies.

"We need to do everything we can to reduce our risk of dementia", Ghebreyesus said.

People can reduce their risk of dementia, a group of symptoms associated with a decline in memory or other cognitive skills, by not smoking or drinking excessively, eating a healthy, preferably Mediterranean diet and maintaining a healthy weight and blood pressure, the World Health Organization (WHO) said Tuesday.

World Health Organization described dementia as an illness characterised by deterioration in cognitive function beyond what might be expected from normal ageing. "Additionally, the disease inflicts a heavy economic burden on societies as a whole, with the costs of caring for people with dementia estimated to rise to US$ 2 trillion annually by 2030".

New guidelines have been issued to improve lifestyle choices linked to the condition by the organisation, which said that age is the strongest risk factor for dementia but the disease is not an inevitable outcome of growing older.

We need to do everything we can to reduce our risk of dementia.

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Dementia results from a variety of diseases and injuries that affect the brain, such as Alzheimer disease or stroke.

The guidelines are designed for use by healthcare providers and also for governments, policy-makers and planning authorities.

Getting regular exercise, not smoking, avoiding harmful use of alcohol, controlling weight, eating a healthy diet, and maintaining healthy blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels can all help stop the onset of the disease that around 30 per cent of people aged over 85 are now living with.

A review of previous studies also identified a link between social isolation, cognitive inactivity and hearing loss and the condition.

"People should be looking for these nutrients through food. not through supplements", Carrillo agreed. At the same time, "we do know that there are some risk factor for dementia that we can actually modify", Dr. Neerja Chowdhary of WHO's mental health and substance abuse division, told reporters in Geneva.

Currently, iSupport is available for use in eight countries, with more expected to follow in the future.

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