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 global guidance of its kind has concluded.
"In the next 30 years, the number of people with dementia is expected to triple", says WHO Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. Dementia is a condition characterized by difficulty with memory, thinking, and doing everyday daily activities. Around five to eight percent of people over the age of 60 are afflicted with Alzheimer's disease and other forms for dementia. "Many people have the opportunity to substantially reduce their risk" by using these methods, said Tara Spires-Jones, a professor at the U.K. Dementia Research Institute.
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WHO hopes the guidelines will help health professionals better advise patients on what they can do to help prevent cognitive decline and dementia.
In addition, the report noted that even though age is a major risk factor for dementia, cognitive decline is not an inevitable effect of old age. At the same time, "we do know that there are some risk factor for dementia that we can actually modify", Dr. Neerja Chowdhary of WHO's mental health and substance abuse division, told reporters in Geneva.
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The guidelines were created to provide healthcare professionals with the knowledge they need to advise patients on the measures they can take to reduce their risk for cognitive decline and dementia.
Conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity and depression also played a role in the development of dementia.
The guidelines recommend exercising regularly and following a healthy lifestyle, rather than relying on vitamin supplements or other pills. They also suggest that cognitive training can help stimulate the brain and ward off dementia. "Several systematic reviews of observational studies have concluded that high adherence to the Mediterranean diet is associated with decreased risk of mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer's Disease, but modest adherence is not", the report states.
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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 outcome of growing older.