Some basic health and lifestyle measures can help people reduce their risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other forms dementia, the World Health Organization says. New guidelines from the group, a leader in global health, urge people to get regular exercise, which has been tied to a reduced risk of dementia. The group also recommends people follow a heart-healthy diet, such as a Mediterranean-style diet rich in whole grains, lots of fruits and vegetables, fish rather than red meat, and healthy fats like olive oil.
“In the next 30 years, the number of people with dementia is expected to triple,” said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “We need to do everything we can to reduce our risk of dementia. The scientific evidence gathered for these Guidelines confirm what we have suspected for some time, that what is good for our heart, is also good for our brain.”
Among the group’s other recommendations:
- If you smoke, stop. Smoking has been linked to a host of ills, including dementia.
- Do not drink to excess. The Mediterranean diet contains red wine in moderation, and moderate drinking may have health benefits for the heart. But excessive drinking may damage the brain.
- Avoid excess weight. Being overweight in midlife has been tied to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
- Don’t waste your money on supplements. Vitamins B and E, polyunsaturated fatty acids and multivitamins aren’t recommended to reduce the risk of dementia, the World Health Organization says.
- Cognitive training may be offered in older adults with normal cognition or mild cognitive impairment, though the quality of evidence supporting this recommendation is low, the group says.
- Stay connected with others. Studies are lacking to prove that social activity reduces dementia risk. But social connection and support are important for improve mental health throughout life.
- Patients with hypertension, diabetes, and depression should take measures to manage their illness, though it’s not clear whether doing so will specifically lower dementia risk, the group says.
WHO also says that it’s critical that caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia take care of their health.
“Dementia carers are very often family members who need to make considerable adjustments to their family and professional lives to care for their loved ones,” said Dr Dévora Kestel, Director of the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse at WHO. “This is why WHO created iSupport, an online training program that provides caregivers of people with dementia with advice on overall management of care, dealing with behavior changes and how to look after their own health.” More on iSupport can be found on their website at https://www.isupportfordementia.org/en/about-isupport
By ALZinfo.org, The Alzheimer’s Information Site. Reviewed by Marc Flajolet, Ph.D., Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation at The Rockefeller University.
Source: World Health Organization.