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

Around five to eight percent of people over the age of 60 are afflicted with Alzheimer's disease and other forms for dementiaMore

Around five to eight percent of people over the age of 60 are afflicted with Alzheimer's disease and other forms for dementiaMore

"The number of people with dementia is expected to triple in the next 30 years, " said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, doctor and director-general of the WHO.

It said that the condition affected the memory, thinking, orientation, comprehension, calculation, learning capacity, language and judgement of an individual.

Fiona Carragher, chief policy and research officer at Alzheimer's Society, said: "Dementia is the biggest health challenge of our generation, so the WHO's clear commitment to spearheading the global fight against the condition through a public health approach is to be welcomed". These includes regular exercise, not drinking and smoking and adopting a healthy "Mediterranean-like" diet.

Given the increasing number of new cases, the heavy social and economic impact and the absence of a cure, the World Health Organization says it is imperative that people try to reduce modifiable risk factors for the condition.

The report said that although age is the strongest known risk factor for cognitive decline, dementia is not a natural or inevitable effect of ageing.

The recommendations call for people to exercise regularly and eat healthy, as well as maintain healthy blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol numbers. The disease causes disability and places a costly heath care burden on countries - by 2030, dementia cost are expected to reach $2 billion each year. However, there was not always strong evidence that dementia risk would be reduced with these steps.

And health experts also warned of a link between hearing loss and depression although said those factors may be.

It urged healthcare providers to use the guidelines provided by the organisation in advising patients on what they can do to 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 guidelines say that healthy eating plans such as following a Mediterranean diet may help to reduce the risk for dementia, but that people can not expect supplements such as vitamin pills or fish oil to help. Carrillo agrees that people should be looking to obtain nutrients through eating whole foods rather than using supplements.

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

WHO has developed iSupport, an e-health solution that provides information and skills training for carers of people living with dementia. iSupport is already being used in several countries.

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