Saturday, 17 August, 2019

WHO's 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
Anna Jefferson | 17 May, 2019, 16:35

"In the next 30 years, the number of people with dementia is expected to triple", says WHO Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

Dementia isn't just one disease, but a variety of conditions that produce similar symptoms, including memory loss and decreased cognitive abilities. "A number of systematic reviews of observational studies have made a conclusion that highly adhering to the Mediterranean diet is associated with reduced Alzheimer's disease and mild cognitive impairment risk, but modest adherence is not", said the World Health Organization report.

The guidelines recommend exercising regularly and following a healthy lifestyle, rather than relying on vitamin supplements or other pills.

New guidelines have been issued to improve lifestyle choices linked to the condition by the organisation, which said that age is the strongest risk factor for dementia but the disease is not an inevitable effect of growing older. The cost of caring for dementia patients is predicted to surge to $2 trillion by 2030.

Getting regular exercise, not smoking, avoiding harmful use of alcohol, controlling weight, eating a healthy diet, and maintaining healthy blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels can all help stop the onset of the disease that around 30 per cent of people aged over 85 are now living with. However, there was not always strong evidence that dementia risk would be reduced with these steps. Dementia is now incurable, but studies show a variety of things can affect the odds of developing it.

The guidelines are designed for use by healthcare providers and also for governments, policy-makers and planning authorities.

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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.

Importantly, the World Health Organization highlights the fact that dementia and cognitive decline isn't something that happens automatically as we get older.

Tens of thousands of people in Ireland are now living with dementia.

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

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.

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