New guidelines released by the World Health Organisation states that people who exercise regularly, avoid alcohol, smoking and eat a healthy diet can reduce the risk of developing dementia at an old age.
WHO published the new guidelines on Tuesday on its website with a call on countries to create policies that would help address the growing global health challenge.
The world health body said that dementia was a rapidly growing health problem affecting around 50 million people globally, inflicting a heavy economic burden on countries.
The organisation estimated that the cost of caring for people with dementia would rise to $2 trillion annually by 2030, if adequate measures were not taken by countries to address the problem.
The report reads in part: “People can reduce the risk of developing dementia by getting regular exercise, not smoking, avoiding harmful use of alcohol, controlling their weight, eating a healthy diet, and maintaining healthy blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
“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.
“Dementia is a rapidly growing public health problem affecting around 50 million people globally. There are nearly 10 million new cases every year.
“Dementia is a major cause of disability and dependency among older people.
“Additionally, the disease inflicts a heavy economic burden on societies as a whole, with the costs of caring for people with dementia estimated to rise to two trillion dollars annually by 2030.”
WHO described dementia as an illness characterised by deterioration in cognitive function beyond what might be expected from normal ageing.
It said the condition affected the memory, thinking, orientation, comprehension, calculation, learning capacity, language and judgement of an individual.
It said dementia resulted from a variety of diseases and injuries that affected the brain such as Alzheimer disease or stroke.
It urged healthcare providers to use the guidelines provided by the organisation in advising patients on what they can do to prevent cognitive decline and dementia.
WHO also urged governments and policy-makers to take note of the guidelines when developing policies and designing programmes aimed at encouraging a healthy lifestyle.
It said: “Creating national policies and plans for dementia are among WHO’s key recommendations for countries in their efforts to manage this growing health challenge.
“An essential element of every national dementia plan should be support for carers of people with dementia. 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 behaviour changes and how to look after their own health.”
WHO said iSupport was currently being used in eight countries, adding that the organisation will soon facilitate the adoption of the programme by more countries.