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Dementia risk: WHO guidelines for reducing it with the lifestyle

June 3, 2019

Healthy lifestyles to reduce the risk of dementia. These are the ones recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) in the new guidelines. It is with these guidelines that the organization aims to counter a rapidly growing public health problem that affects about 50 million people worldwide and that records almost 10 million new cases each year. And this without forgetting that dementia is one of the main causes of disability and dependence among older people. We talked about it with Dr. Simona Marcheselli, Head of the autonomous emergency neurology section of Humanitas.


WHO guidelines for reducing the risk of dementia

The new WHO guidelines that recommend specific interventions to reduce the risk of cognitive decline and dementia are:

– regular physical exercise

– no smoking

– no alcohol abuse

– weight control

– healthy diet

– watch out for blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels

Already defined in 2016 as a “global public health priority”, dementia, in the light of estimates that the next 30 years will see a tripling of the number of people affected, is the subject of the utmost commitment by the WHO to reduce its risk. The disease also represents a heavy economic burden, with the cost of care for affected people estimated to rise to $2 trillion a year by 2030. The guidelines provide the knowledge base for healthcare workers, but will also be useful to governments, policy makers and planning authorities as a guide in developing policies and designing programs that encourage healthy lifestyles.


Global policy issue

Reducing risk factors is one of the areas included in the WHO Global Action Plan to guide public health’s response to dementias. Other areas include strengthening information systems; diagnosis, treatment and care; support for carers of people with dementia; and research and innovation. The WHO Global Observatory on Dementia, launched in December 2017, is a collection of information on national activities and resources used in the problem and brings together national health plans, dementia initiatives, awareness raising campaigns and care facilities. The data of 21 countries have already been included and a total of 80 countries are committed to providing them. An essential element of any national plan for dementia is support for the care-givers of the sick and often family members who need to significantly change their family and professional lives. That’s why WHO has created iSupport, an online training programme that provides advice on overall care management, behavioural changes and how to care for one’s health.

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