A new report released from the World Health Organization (WHO) has revealed that “dementia is not a natural or inevitable consequence of aging.” Although age is the top risk factor, it advises some guidelines for preventing dementia, too.
So how can you save your brain? Well, it starts with exercise and eating right. With regular exercise and a health diet, rather than popping vitamins regularly as a cure all, you’ll be doing yourself a great favor, says the report.
Approximately 50 million people currently have dementia, where Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia. The report states that every year there are 10 million new dementia cases.
Maria Carrillo, chief science officer of the Alzheimer’s Association, says that research suggests approximately one third of cases are preventable.
Since dementia is currently incurable and numerous experimental therapies have not succeeded, focusing on prevention may “give us more benefit in the shorter term,” Carrillo said.
The WHO’s advice, much of which follows common sense, includes getting sufficient exercise; getting other health conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol treated; keeping an active social life, and avoiding or mitigating harmful habits such as overeating, drinking too much alcohol or using drugs, and smoking. Evidence is insufficient that following these habits will help preserve thinking skills, but they’re known to aid general health, the WHO says.
Certain diets, such as the Mediterranean-style diet, the guidelines say. Conversely, they take a hard stance against vitamin B or E pills, fish oil or multi-complex supplements that are promoted for brain health, citing strong research that suggests they don’t work.
“There is currently no evidence to show that taking these supplements actually reduces the risk of cognitive decline and dementia, and in fact, we know that in high doses these can be harmful,” said the WHO’s Dr. Neerja Chowdhary.
“People should be looking for these nutrients through food … not through supplements,” Carrillo agreed.
Additionally, The WHO did not endorse games and other activities aimed at boosting thinking skills. These, the WHO says, can be considered for people with regular cognitive capacities or even slight impairment, but there’s very little evidence that have shown their benefit.
The report did provide substantial evidence that people can take preventative measures to reduce their risks, Carrillo said.
“Start now. It’s never too late or too early to incorporate healthy habits.”