The World Health Organization has published its first guidelines on the prevention and management of dementia on Tuesday, placing physical activity first in its list of recommendations to prevent cognitive decline.
Quitting smoking, following a healthy diet and avoiding the harmful use of alcohol were also among the recommendations of the WHO report, entitled Reduced risk of cognitive decline and dementia.
The headquarters of the World Health Organization is represented in Geneva on 27 April 2009. PHOTO: REUTERS / Denis Balibouse / photo of the file
The treatment for hypertension, high cholesterol and diabetes also reduces the risks, the report states.
Neerja Chowdhary, an expert at the WHO, said the study did not consider smoking marijuana and did not include environmental factors, although there was some evidence of a link with pollution, and c & # 39; there was too little evidence of a link with poor sleep to include it in the recommendations.
Vitamins and supplements were not useful and could even be harmful if taken in high doses, he said.
But there was less evidence that cognitive training or social activity would prevent the onset of dementia and insufficient evidence that antidepressant drugs or hearing aids could help.
Dementia affects about 50 million people globally, with about 10 million new cases a year – a figure that will triple by 2050, while the cost of treating dementia patients should reach $ 2 trillion dollars by 2030, the deputy director general of the OMS Ren Minghui wrote in the report.
"While there is no curative treatment for dementia, the proactive management of modifiable risk factors can delay or delay the onset or progression of the disease," wrote Ren.
"Because many of the risk factors for dementia are shared with those of non-communicable diseases, key recommendations can be effectively integrated into tobacco cessation, cardiovascular disease risk reduction and nutrition programs."
The report states that although age is the strongest known risk factor for cognitive decline, dementia is not a natural or inevitable consequence of aging.
"Over the past two decades, several studies have shown a relationship between the development of cognitive impairment and dementia with educational outcomes and lifestyle-related risk factors, such as physical inactivity, tobacco use, unhealthy diets and harmful use of alcohol "he said.
Maria C Carrillo, chief science officer of the Alzheimer's Association in the United States, said there is substantial evidence that there are things that people could do to reduce risks.
"It starts now, it's never too late or too early to incorporate healthy habits," he said.
Carol Routledge, director of research at Alzheimer's Research UK, said dementia is the leading cause of death in Britain, but only 34% of adults realized they could reduce the risk and the WHO report has helped to clarify deficiency.