Diet, exercise and socializing are just a few of the ways people can prevent dementia, new World Health Organization guidelines suggest.
Yes, it’s that simple: making changes to your lifestyle can mitigate the risks of developing the terrible disease.
“What is good for our heart, is also good for our brain,” WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
The report, published on Tuesday, says dementia is a rapidly growing health problem around the world, claiming 50 million victims. Every year, there are 10 million new cases and by 2050, that figure is set to triple.
“Dementia is a major cause of disability and dependency among older people and can devastate the lives of affected individuals, their carers and families,” said Ren Minghui, an assistant director-general at the WHO.
Not only does dementia take a toll on people’s lives and families, but it inflicts economic burden on societies as a whole, Minghui added. The cost of caring for people with dementia is expected to rise to more than $ 2 trillion annually by 2030. Currently, the global cost of the disease is estimated at $ 1 trillion.
Nearly 85 per cent of costs are related to family and social, rather than medical, care.
“Most health systems are ill-equipped and under-resourced to respond to the current needs associated with dementia,” the report noted. “Thus, societal ageing and the associated increases in dementia prevalence will likely have major health-service implications for the care of people with dementia and support for affected families.”
Here are measures you can take to prevent dementia:
Increase physical activity
An active lifestyle has long been linked to good brain health. In large studies with decades-long follow up periods, physically active people seem less likely to develop cognitive decline compared to inactive people.
For people 65 and older, 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise (cardio) is recommended per week, in 10-minute spurts. Activities like walking, swimming and dancing are suitable exercises.
Smoking cigarettes is the leading cause of preventable death globally, according to the WHO. The report noted studies have shown a link between smoking and dementia in later life.
What you eat has the potential to change your health for the better and eating nutritious foods can prevent cognitive decline. The report suggests highly adhering to a Mediterranean diet can be most helpful in preventing dementia, but loosely sticking to the diet doesn’t help much.
The Mediterranean diet focuses on primarily eating plant-based foods and legumes, reducing red meat intake and replacing butter with olive oil.
Spend time with friends and family
Humans are social animals; we’re not programmed to live a life in solitude. In fact, loneliness and decreased socializing are associated with higher rates of dementia. Regular socializing provides a whole host of benefits.
Manage your weight
Obesity is responsible for 2.8 million deaths worldwide and leads to many health issues, including diabetes, cancer and hypertension — and yeah, you guessed it, dementia. Studies have established a link between increased body fat mass and cognitive decline, so ensuring proper exercise and diet can help avoid the disease.