WHO Issues Guide to Cut Risks of Dementia

Smoking was found to be one of the biggest risk factors

The new guidelines recommend specific interventions for reducing the risk of cognitive decline and dementia, a general term for a reduction in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life.

Dementia, which affects memory, thinking, language and judgement, results from a variety of diseases and injuries that affect the brain.

In the guideline, the organisation says people can delay the onset of dementia by eating healthy, exercising regularly, controlling their weight, maintaining healthy blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels, cutting down the intake of harmful alcohol, and avoiding smoking.

While age is the strongest known risk factor for cognitive decline, dementia is not a natural or inevitable effect of ageing, the World Health Organization said. "The scientific evidence gathered for these Guidelines confirm what we have suspected for some time, that what is good for our heart, is also good for our brain", Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of World Health Organization, said in a statement.

Today, around 50 million people globally suffer from dementia and there are almost 10 million new cases every year.

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WHO hopes the guidelines will help health professionals better advise patients on what they can do to help prevent cognitive decline and dementia.

The disease also exacts a heavy economic toll, with the cost of caring for people with dementia estimated to rise to $2 trillion annually by 2030, according to WHO. There are around 10 million new cases of dementia every year, and this statistic is expected to triple by 2050, according to the report. This disease is also becoming a major reason for dependency and disability among older people.

The agency said its new recommendations could provide the key to delaying or slowing cognitive decline or dementia. They can also guide policymakers and other authorities on how to develop programs and strategies that move people to live healthier lifestyles.

"Other recommendations have a less strong evidence base but may have evidence that they do not increase risk or harm and can therefore be recommended safely, although their impact on risk is less certain".

The report, which is close to 100 pages, identifies various lifestyle adjustments that can be made in an effort to reduce the risk of dementia. "This is why WHO created iSupport. iSupport is an online training programme providing carers of people with dementia with advice on overall management of care, dealing with behaviour changes and how to look after their own health".

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