People can reduce the risk for dementia by staying physically active and not smoking, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Tuesday, in its first guidelines on preventing this rapidly growing health phenomenon.
Dementia is not a specific disease. It’s an overall term that describes a group of symptoms associated with a decline in memory or other thinking skills severe enough to reduce a person’s ability to perform everyday activities.
Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60 to 80 per cent of cases.
The Geneva-based UN health agency also recommended reducing excessive weight, managing high blood pressure and treating diabetes.
“A physically active lifestyle is linked to brain health,” the WHO said, pointing to large-scale studies on the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
“Physical activity seems to have beneficial effects on brain structures,” the guidelines explained.
Supplements of vitamins B and E should not be recommended to maintain mental health, according to the WHO. There are currently 50 million people around the world with dementia.
The WHO expects the number to triple to 152 million by 2050.
While becoming old is the strongest factor involved in losing one’s cognitive power, dementia is not inevitable, according to the guidelines, which also cited heavy drinking, unhealthy diets and depression as risks.