World Health Organization makes first official recommendations to reduce risk of dementia

Modesto Morganelli
Mag 15, 2019

The health body has published its first guidelines to reduce the risk of cognitive decline and dementia - a condition that affects nearly 350,000 Australians and 50 million people around the world.

And health experts also warned of a link between hearing loss and depression although said those factors may be.

The UN agency said that a healthy lifestyle appeared to help keep cognitive decline at bay. "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".

Around 5-8% 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.

The big caveat to the 77-page report is that, on the whole, the evidence that lifestyle habits reduce the odds of developing dementia isn't very strong - most of the recommendations lean more to "We're not sure if this guideline has much effect on dementia, but there's no harm in following it", rather than "Following this guideline will definitely lower the risk".

The largest increase in cases over the next three decades will be seen in low- and middle-income countries where overall population growth is the highest, World Health Organization said, warning that many healthcare systems will face significant challenges.

"There is now no evidence to show that taking these supplements actually reduces the risk of cognitive decline and dementia, and in fact, we know that in high doses these can be harmful", said the WHO's Dr Neerja Chowdhary.

"Sadly, there will always be individuals who address many or all of these risk factors and still develop dementia", said the director of research at Alzheimer's Research UK, Dr Carol Routledge.

While age is the strongest known factor for decline, it is not an inevitable outcome of aging, the report found. They include regular physical exercise, not using tobacco, drinking less alcohol, maintaining healthy blood pressure and eating a healthy diet - particularly a Mediterranean one. In addition, there is insufficient evidence that antidepressant medicine, cognitive training or social activity can prevent or slow down the onset of dementia.

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