World Health Organization guidelines seek to reduce risk of dementia

Henrietta Brewer
May 17, 2019

The WHO explained dementia is an illness that affects memory, thinking, learning, and judgment.

Carol Routledge, director of Research at Alzheimer's Research UK, said dementia was the leading cause of death in Britain, but only 34% of adults realised they could reduce the risk, and the World Health Organization report helped to clarify what was known and where evidence was lacking.

"In the next 30 years, the number of people with dementia is expected to triple", said WHO Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Ph.D., in a statement.

People should eat more fruit, vegetables, fish and nuts and walk for about 25 minutes a day to reduce their risk of dementia, the first worldwide guidance of its kind has concluded.

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. They also include drinking alcohol at moderate levels and cutting smoking altogether.

The recommendations call for people to exercise regularly and eat healthy, as well as maintain healthy blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol numbers. The good news is there are ways to reduce the risk of dementia and it starts with diet and exercise.

Dementia is characterized by a decline in cognitive function that is beyond what would usually be expected as a result of normal aging. However, there was not always strong evidence that dementia risk would be reduced with these steps.

According to World Health Organization spokesperson Neerja Chowdhary, the study did not take into account the effect of smoking marijuana or environmental factors on the risk of dementia, although there is some evidence that poor sleep and pollution may also be linked to dementia.

"There is now no evidence to show that taking these supplements actually reduces the risk of cognitive decline and dementia, and in fact, we know that in high doses these can be harmful", said the WHO's Dr. Neerja Chowdhary.

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. Carrillo agrees that people should be looking to obtain nutrients through eating whole foods rather than using supplements. "This is why WHO created 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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