WHO issues guidelines to reduce risk of dementia

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Number of people with the illness expected to triple in the next 30 years; advice includes exercise, watch weight, eat healthy, control of BP, cholestrol

In the next 30 years, the number of people with dementia is expected to triple, warns the World Health Organization (WHO). To reduce the risk of the disease, the WHO prescribes 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.

WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, stating that the next three decades will see a jump in the number of people with dementia, said: “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.”

Dementia is an illness characterised by deterioration in cognitive functions beyond what might be expected from normal ageing. It affects memory, thinking, orientation, comprehension, calculation, learning capacity, language and judgment. Dementia results from a variety of diseases and injuries that affect the brain, such as Alzheimer’s disease, or stroke.

Knowledge base

The guidelines provide a knowledge base for healthcare 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.

Stating that an essential element of every national dementia plan is support for carers of people with dementia Dr. Dévora Kestel, Director, Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse,WHO, said, “Dementia carers are very often family members who need to make considerable adjustments in their family and professional lives to care for their loved ones. This is why WHO created iSupport, 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.”

The reduction of risk factors for dementia is one of several areas of action included in the 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.

Rapidly growing

Dementia is a rapidly growing public health problem affecting around 50 million people globally, and major cause of disability and dependency among older people. There are nearly 10 million new cases every year. 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 $2 trillion annually by 2030.

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