Lifestyle choices like getting regular exercise, avoidance of smoking and harmful use of alcohol, controlling weight, eating a healthy diet, maintaining healthy blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels can help reduce the risk of dementia, according to new guidelines issued by WHO.
Dementia is a rapidly growing public health problem affecting around 50 million people globally, reports WHO. With nearly 10 million new cases every year, dementia becomes a major cause of disability and dependency among older people.
“In the next 30 years, the number of people with dementia is expected to triple,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus Director-General WHO in the press release.
“We need to do everything we can to reduce our risk of dementia. 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,” he said.
Dementia, which is characterized by a deterioration in cognitive function affecting memory and thinking can result from a variety of diseases and injuries that affect the brain, such as Alzheimer disease or stroke.
The guidelines aim in providing 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, policymakers and planning authorities to guide them in developing policy and designing programmes that encourage healthy lifestyles.
WHO’s global action plan for improving the public health response to dementia also involves proper diagnosis, treatment and care; supporting carers of people with dementia; and research and innovation.
“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.” said Dr Dévora Kestel, Director of the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse at WHO.
iSupport is currently being used in eight countries.