WHO releases first-ever guideline for reducing the risk of dementia

Written by Sharon Salt, Editor

The World Health Organization (WHO, Geneva, Switzerland) has launched their first-ever guideline on reducing the risk of dementia. The Guidelines provide the knowledge base for healthcare providers to advise patients on what they can do to help prevent cognitive decline and dementia.
This will also be useful for governments, policy makers and planning authorities to guide them in developing policy and designing programs that encourage healthy lifestyles.

The Guidelines recommend that people can reduce their risk of dementia by:

  1. Getting regular exercise
  2. Not smoking
  3. Avoiding harmful use of alcohol
  4. Controlling their weight
  5. Eating a healthy diet
  6. Maintaining healthy blood pressure
  7. Maintaining healthy cholesterol
  8. Maintaining healthy blood sugar levels

“In the next 30 years, the number of people with dementia is expected to triple,” commented Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (WHO Director-General). “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.”

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.

Speaking of the published Guidelines, Carol Routledge (Director of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK), commented: “The findings clarify what we already know about dementia risk, including the value of physical activity and not smoking. While observational studies have identified a link between dementia risk and factors like depression and hearing loss, the report highlights a lack of sufficient evidence that treating these conditions effectively reduces the risk of cognitive decline.”

“Sadly, there will always be individuals who address many or all of these risk factors and still develop dementia. Genetic predisposition plays an important role in many people’s risk of diseases like Alzheimer’s, and while we cannot change the genes we inherit, taking the steps outlined in this report can still help to stack the odds in our favor.”

Routledge concluded that: “This valuable resource, which has been reviewed and developed by leading experts based on high-quality evidence, represents the best possible source of information. We now need to see these recommendations shared through NHS Health Checks in midlife, as well as through government-led risk reduction campaigns to reach as many people as possible.”

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Source: www.who.int/news-room/detail/14-05-2019-adopting-a-healthy-lifestyle-helps-reduce-the-risk-of-dementia; www.alzheimersresearchuk.org/who-publishes-dementia-risk-reduction-guidelines/