A healthy lifestyle helps reduce the risk of dementia

A recent report from the World Health Organisation (WHO) has claimed that taking better care of ourselves is the best long-term strategy towards tackling the growing problem of dementia.

Throughout the world, around 50 million people are affected by the neurological disease which costs around £632 million annually to treat and it is widely believed that diagnoses of the condition are set to triple by 2050.

As part of the WHO plan to tackle cognitive decline, they have set out a series of guidelines linked to overall health and wellbeing.

A review of the existing research found age was the highest risk factor, but it is important to remember that dementia is not an inevitable consequence of ageing.

Other lifestyle factors such as physical inactivity, smoking, unhealthy diet and excessive alcohol consumption are known to significantly increase the threat of the disease.

Whilst medical conditions including diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity and depression have also been found to play a role in cognitive decline and the development of dementia.

The guidelines look at the level of risk posed by 12 possible contributory factors, and also the potential benefit in treating them.

Some of the factors indicate a strong link to dementia, for example, depression or hearing loss, but there is a lack of evidence to suggest that treatment would prevent the disease.

The WHO recommends that people follow their guidelines to improve an individual’s quality of life.

A healthy diet has always been linked to better cognitive health, with strict adherence to the Mediterranean diet shown to have the strongest link.

Robert Howard, Professor of old age psychiatry at University College London, said: “The guidelines are based on a comprehensive and carefully conducted review of the published literature and are sensible but unsurprising.

“Keep on doing the things that we know benefit overall physical and mental health, smoking cessation, reduce harmful alcohol drinking, treat hypertension, eat a healthy balanced diet and lose weight if you are obese, but understand that the evidence that these steps will reduce dementia risk is not certified.”

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