Published: Fri, May 17, 2019
Medicine | By Brett Sutton

World Health Organization guidelines seek to reduce risk of dementia

World Health Organization guidelines seek to reduce risk of dementia

Dementia, which affects memory, thinking, language and judgement, results from a variety of diseases and injuries that affect the brain. According to the United Nations health agency, having a healthy diet, especially a Mediterranean one, maintaining healthy blood pressure, consuming less amount of alcohol, and exercising regularly could help in reducing the risk of the brain condition.

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.

According to the guidelines, people can reduce their risk of dementia by getting regular exercise, not smoking and avoiding harmful use of alcohol.

It now affects about 50 million people globally with 10 million new cases every year.

Although the guideline is intended as a knowledge base for experts in the fight against cognitive decline and dementia, the World Health Organization said it would also be of great use to policy-makers in designing programmes that encourage healthy lifestyles.

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.

World Health Organization also urged governments and policy-makers to take note of the guidelines when developing policies and designing programmes aimed at encouraging a healthy lifestyle.

There are almost 10 million new cases every year.

The WHO says that, although there is not a strong evidence base to suggest that such interventions will preserve cognition, they do encourage a lifestyle that is known to be good for overall health. This disease is also becoming a major reason for dependency and disability among older people.

"People should be looking for these nutrients through food. not through supplements", Carrillo agreed.

The guidelines also do not endorse engaging in activities aimed at boosting cognition such as puzzles and games, saying that whilst these could be good for people with normal cognition or only mild impairment, there is little research showing that they are actually beneficial in terms of preventing dementia. 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.

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.

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