A healthy lifestyle helps reduce the risk of dementia, assert WHO Guidelines.
According to new guidelines issued by the World Health Organization (WHO), People can reduce their risk of dementia by getting regular exercise, not smoking, avoiding harmful use of alcohol, controlling their weight, eating a healthy diet, and maintaining healthy blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
Dementia is an illness characterized by a deterioration in cognitive function beyond what might be expected from normal ageing. It affects memory, thinking, orientation, comprehension, calculation, learning capacity, language and judgement. Dementia results from a variety of diseases and injuries that affect the brain, such as Alzheimer disease or stroke.
Dementia is a rapidly growing public health problem affecting around 50 million people globally. There are nearly 10 million new cases every year. Dementia is a major cause of disability and dependency among older people. 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.
“In the next 30 years, the number of people with dementia is expected to triple,” said World Health Organization,WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “We need to do everything we can to reduce our risk of dementia. The scientific evidence gathered for these Guidelines confirms what we have suspected for some time, that what is good for our heart, is also good for our brain.”
The World Health Organization Guidelines provide the knowledge base for health-care providers to advise patients on what they can do to help prevent cognitive decline and dementia. They will also be useful for governments, policy-makers and planning authorities to guide them in developing policy and designing programmes that encourage healthy lifestyles.
The reduction of risk factors for dementia is one of several areas of action included in WHO’s Global action plan for the public health response to dementia. Other areas include: strengthening information systems for dementia; diagnosis, treatment and care; supporting carers of people with dementia; and research and innovation.
The Global Dementia Observatory of World Health Organization (WHO), launched in December 2017, is a compilation of information about country activities and resources for dementia, such as national plans, dementia-friendly initiatives, awareness campaigns and facilities for care. Data from 21 countries, including Bangladesh, Chile, France, Japan, Jordan and Togo, have already been included, with a total of 80 countries now engaged in providing data.
Creating national policies and plans for dementia are among WHO’s key recommendations for countries in their efforts to manage this growing health challenge. During 2018, WHO provided support to countries such as Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Qatar, Slovenia, and Sri Lanka to help them develop a comprehensive, multi-sectoral public health response to dementia.
An essential element of every national dementia plan is support for carers of people with dementia, said Dr Dévora Kestel, Director of the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse at World Health Organization,WHO. “Dementia carers are very often family members who need to make considerable adjustments to their family and professional lives to care for their loved ones. 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.”
iSupport is currently being used in eight countries, with more expected to follow.
Among the group’s other recommendations:
- Promote tobacco cessation, reduce harmful drinking, and help patients lose excess weight in midlife.
- Encourage a healthy diet. A Mediterranean-style diet may be offered to reduce dementia risk.
- Vitamins B and E, polyunsaturated fatty acids, and multivitamins aren’t recommended for risk reduction.
- Cognitive training may be offered in older adults with normal cognition or mild impairment, but the quality of evidence supporting this recommendation is low.
- There was not enough evidence on whether social activity reduces dementia risk, but social participation and support are important throughout life.
- Patients with hypertension, diabetes, and depression should be managed according to existing guidelines, but it’s not clear whether doing so will specifically lower dementia risk