New WHO Guidelines recommend specific interventions for reducing the risk of dementia

Adopting a healthy lifestyle helps reduce the risk of dementia

People can reduce their risk of dementia by getting regular exercise, not smoking, avoiding harmful use of alcohol, controlling their weight, eating a healthy diet, and maintaining healthy blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels, according to new guidelines issued by the World Health Organization (WHO).

NeuRA’s Professor Kaarin Anstey was a member of the Guideline Development Committee. Professor Anstey’s team, led by NeuRA’s Dr Ruth Peters, prepared the evidence briefs for six of the risk factors. 
 Professor Anstey says the Guidelines highlight the scientific evidence to support the benefit of interventions for reducing the risk of cognitive decline and dementia.

“The Guidelines have global relevance and underline the importance of risk reduction,” says Professor Anstey.

“In the next 30 years, the number of people with dementia is expected to triple,” said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “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 Guidelines provide 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 programs that encourage healthy lifestyles.

Dementia: a rapidly growing public health problem

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

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