What helps prevent dementia? Try exercise, not vitamin pills

Around five to eight percent of people over the age of 60 are afflicted with Alzheimer's disease and other forms for dementiaMore

"We need to do everything we can to reduce our risk of dementia", the statement quoted the WHO Director-General, Tedros Ghebreyesus, as saying.

The WHO explained dementia is an illness that affects memory, thinking, learning, and judgment.

Much of the WHO's advice is common sense, and echoes what the U.S. National Institute on Aging says. These includes regular exercise, not drinking and smoking and adopting a healthy "Mediterranean-like" diet.

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 effect of growing older. "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".

Dementia is a syndrome - usually of a chronic or progressive nature - in which there is deterioration in cognitive function (i.e. the ability to process thought) beyond what might be expected from normal ageing. However, there was not always strong evidence that dementia risk would be reduced with these steps.

Dementia results from a variety of diseases and injuries that affect the brain, such as Alzheimer disease or stroke.

The guidelines released Tuesday by the World Health Organization recommend getting enough exercise, eating well, avoiding or quitting smoking, and treating other health conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

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Neerja Chowdhary, a World Health Organization expert, said that the study had not looked at smoking marijuana and did not include environmental factors, although there was some evidence of a link with pollution, and there was too little evidence of a link with poor sleep to include it in the recommendations.

It urged healthcare providers to use the guidelines provided by the organisation in advising patients on what they can do to prevent cognitive decline and dementia.

They will also be useful to governments, policy makers and planning authorities as a guide in developing policy and designing programmes that encourage healthy lifestyles.

"We need to do everything we can to reduce our risk of dementia", Ghebreyesus said.

"Dementia is a rapidly growing public health problem affecting around 50 million people globally". Social activity is also important to maintain overall well being and the report states: "Social disengagement conversely, has been shown to place older individuals at increased risk of cognitive impairment and dementia".

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