According to new World Health Organization (WHO) dementia prevention guidelines, smoking and alcohol cessation, exercising regularly can be more beneficial than vitamin supplements.
Risk reduction is one of the key action areas in the Global action plan on the public health response to dementia 2017–2025, in addition to treatment, diagnosis, research and development, and improvement of caregiving and information systems. According to WHO Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, “In the next 30 years, the number of people with dementia is expected to triple. 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.”
The motive behind the new guidelines is to help healthcare professionals provide the required care and advice to patients in order to prevent dementia or cognitive failure. Furthermore, these guidelines will also aid policymakers and governments in developing programs and interventions aimed at encouraging people to make healthy lifestyle choices. According to the guidelines, ageing, although a major risk factor for dementia, is not an ‘inevitable consequence of ageing’.
The WHO encourages lifestyle choices that will be beneficial for cognitive health, such as following a Mediterranean diet. However, vitamin supplements of pills cannot be expected to help owing to a lack of strong evidence regarding their effectiveness. Dévora Kestel director of the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse at WHO notes that providing support to carers of dementia patients is important. “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. This is why WHO created iSupport. iSupport is an online training programme providing carers of people with dementia with advice on overall management of care, dealing with behavior changes and how to look after their own health,” Kestel concludes.