With dementia cases set to soar, the World Health Organization presented Tuesday its first-ever guidelines for reducing the risk, including healthy eating, regular exercise and cutting out tobacco use.
The number of people living with dementia is expected to explode from approximately 50 million today to 152 million by 2050, the WHO said in its report.
“In the next 30 years, the number of people with dementia is expected to triple,” WHO Director-General TedrosAdhanomGhebreyesus said in a statement, stressing that “we need to do everything we can to reduce our risk of dementia.” The UN agency said that a healthy lifestyle appeared to help keep cognitive decline at bay.
The guidelines point to a range of lifestyle choices that appear to heighten the risk, including physical inactivity, tobacco use, unhealthy diets and harmful alcohol use.
Medical conditions like hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol, obesity and depression are also associated with increased risk of developing dementia, WHO said.
The WHO guidelines recommend that adults adopt a balanced, Mediterranean-style diet, quit smoking, avoid drinking too much alcohol and watch their weight.
They also suggest that cognitive training can help stimulate the brain and ward off dementia.
And they hint that an active social life could also be beneficial, pointing to studies showing that social disengagement can place older individuals at increased risk of cognitive impairment. WHO acknowledged though that there is not enough scientific evidence that increased social activity actually reduces the risk of developing dementia.