WHO sets guidelines to keep dementia at bay

Local | AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE 16 May 2019

With dementia cases set to soar, the World Health Organization presented its first-ever guidelines for reducing the risk, including healthy eating, regular exercise and cutting out tobacco use.

The number of people living with dementia is expected to explode from about 50 million today to 152 million by 2050, WHO said in its report.

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

Dementia is caused by a variety of brain illnesses that affect memory, thinking, behavior and the ability to perform everyday activities.

Around 5 to 8 percent of people over the age of 60 are afflicted with Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia.

The disease inflicts a heavy economic burden, with the cost of caring for people with dementia expected to rise to US$2 trillion (HK$15.6 trillion) by the middle of this century, WHO said.

It added there were a number of non-modifiable risk factors for dementia such as age and family history.

But it stressed that "while age is the strongest known risk factor for cognitive decline, dementia is not a natural or inevitable consequence of ageing."

The agency said its recommendations could provide the key to delaying or slowing cognitive decline or dementia.

The guidelines point to a range of lifestyle choices that appear to heighten the risk, including physical inactivity, tobacco use, unhealthy diets and harmful alcohol use.

Medical conditions like hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol, obesity and depression are also associated with increased risk of developing dementia, WHO said.

They suggest that cognitive training can help stimulate the brain and ward off dementia.

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