Eat Healthy, Exercise: WHO Issues New Guidelines on Reducing Dementia Risk

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People can reduce their risk of dementia, a group of symptoms associated with a decline in memory or other cognitive skills, by not smoking or drinking excessively, eating a healthy, preferably Mediterranean diet and maintaining a healthy weight and blood pressure, the World Health Organization (WHO) said Tuesday.

"In the next 30 years, the number of people with dementia is expected to triple," WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a Tuesday press release. 

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"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," Ghebreyesus added.

According to WHO spokesperson Neerja Chowdhary, the study did not take into account the effect of smoking marijuana or environmental factors on the risk of dementia, although there is some evidence that poor sleep and pollution may also be linked to dementia.

The WHO also noted that dietary supplements, such as vitamins B and E, do not counter cognitive decline. In addition, there is insufficient evidence that antidepressant medicine, cognitive training or social activity can prevent or slow down the onset of dementia.

"While some people are unlucky and inherit a combination of genes that makes it highly likely they will develop dementia, many people have the opportunity to substantially reduce their risk by living a healthy lifestyle," Tara Spires-Jones, a professor at the University of Edinburgh and program leader at the UK Dementia Research Institute, told the Science Media Center Tuesday.

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. 

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"During the last two decades, several studies have shown a relationship between the development of cognitive impairment and dementia with educational attainment, and lifestyle-related risk factors, such as physical inactivity, tobacco use, unhealthy diets and harmful use of alcohol," the report states.

Dementia affects around 50 million people around the world. There are around 10 million new cases of dementia every year, and this statistic is expected to triple by 2050, according to the report. The cost of caring for dementia patients is predicted to surge to $2 trillion by 2030.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are many types of dementia, but Alzheimer's is the most common. Alzheimer's Disease causes issues with memory, thinking, language and behavior and usually worsens with time.

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