With the cases of dementia destined to rise, the World Health Organization has presented its first guidelines to reduce the risk, including a healthy diet, regular exercise and the elimination of the 39; use of tobacco.
The number of people living with dementia should explode from around 50 million today to 152 million by 2050, according to reports from the WHO in its report.
"In the next 30 years, the number of people with dementia should triple," said the director general of WHO Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in a statement, stressing that "we must do everything we can to reduce the risk of dementia".
Dementia is the second leading cause of death for Australians overall, and the leading cause of death for Australian women.
Nearly half a million Australians live with dementia.
The United Nations agency said that a healthy lifestyle seems to help keep cognitive decline at bay.
The scientific evidence gathered to draw up the guidelines, said Tedros, "confirms what we have long suspected, that what is good for our heart, is also good for our brain".
Dementia is caused by a variety of brain diseases that affect memory, thinking, behavior and the ability to perform daily activities.
About 5/8% of people over the age of 60 suffer from Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia.
The disease places a heavy economic burden on companies as a whole, with the cost of caring for people with dementia who are expected to increase from $ 818 billion in 2015 to $ US2 trillion by 2030, according to the WHO.
The largest increase in cases over the next three decades will be seen in low and middle income countries where overall population growth is the highest, said WHO, warning that many health systems will face significant challenges.
The WHO said that there were a number of non-modifiable risk factors for dementia such as age and family history.
Associate Professor Michael Woodward is Dementia L & # 39; s honorary medical advisor of Australia told SBS News that the guidelines mark a first step in offering advice.
"This is the first time that W-H-O has included it in international guidelines and has also offered resources to facilitate this in other countries, perhaps those that have a health system that is less robust than we have in Australia," he said.
"So yes, it's a new approach, but it uses information that has been around for a while."
But he stressed that "while age is the strongest known risk factor for cognitive decline, dementia is not a natural or inevitable consequence of aging."
At the same time, "we know there are some risk factors for dementia that we can actually modify," Dr. Neerja Chowdhary of the Mental Health and Substance Abuse Division told reporters in Geneva. WHO.
The agency said its new recommendations could provide the key to delaying or slowing cognitive decline or dementia.
The guidelines indicate a number of lifestyle choices that appear to increase the risk, including physical inactivity, tobacco use, unhealthy diets and harmful use of alcohol.
Medical conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol, obesity and depression are also associated with an increased risk of developing dementia, according to the WHO.
The guidelines of the WHO recommend that adults adopt a balanced, Mediterranean-style diet, stop smoking, avoid drinking too much alcohol and observe their weight.
They also suggest that cognitive training can help stimulate the brain and ward off dementia.
And they suggest that an active social life could also be useful, indicating studies that show that social disengagement can place older individuals at an increased risk of cognitive impairment.
& # 39; Massive Impact & # 39;
Professor Woodward says that being able to slow things down using the preventive measures proposed by the WHO could make a big difference:
"Although we can delay the onset of dementia by about five years, we will reduce the total number by around 50 percent, which is a huge impact on what we might see as a tsunami of dementia that will come to us in future.
"We care about things like global warming, all very important, we worry about terrorism, again very important – but we must be aware that dementia will soon be the leading cause of death in our society.
"It will produce incredible costs in Australia, in Australia it is already close to 10 billion dollars a year and it is rising rapidly, so we have to worry about dementia and do what we can now."