Exercise more, eat better: new guidelines to reduce dementia risk

World Health Organisation releases new dementia prevention guidelines


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KEEP FIT: Exercising more could be the best long-term way to tackle the problem of dementia, according to the World Health Organisation. Photo: Shutterstock

KEEP FIT: Exercising more could be the best long-term way to tackle the problem of dementia, according to the World Health Organisation. Photo: Shutterstock

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Exercise and Mediterranean diet may hold key to curbing dementia

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WHAT is good for the brain is good for the heart. That's the message from the World Health Organisation which has released new guidelines to curb dementia.

The WHO research found improving lifestyle factors, such as eating better, exercising and cutting back on alcohol, could be the best long-term way to tackle the problem of dementia.

Based on a huge review of existing evidence, the new WHO guidelines recommend people eat more fruit, vegetables, fish and nuts and walk about 25 minutes a day to reduce their risk of dementia.

They also say drinking moderately, keeping the brain active with things like brain-training exercises and following a Mediterranean diet can help avoid conditions like Alzheimer's.

Keeping blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes in check are also strongly recommended.

FRESH ADVICE: The WHO report found following a Mediterranean diet may help avoid conditions like Alzheimer's.

FRESH ADVICE: The WHO report found following a Mediterranean diet may help avoid conditions like Alzheimer's.

In its report, the WHO said while age is the strongest known risk factor for cognitive decline, dementia is not a natural or inevitable consequence of ageing. A third of cases are thought to be preventable.

It also found there was not enough evidence to recommend an active social life, vitamin supplements and the use of hearing aids to ward off dementia.

WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: "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 confirms what we have suspected for some time, that what is good for the heart is also good for our brain."

There are currently 447,000 Australians living with dementia with this number expected to reach almost 1.1 million by 2058.

Queensland study 'digs deeper'

Researchers in Queensland are looking for people aged between 50 and 80 to take part in a clinical trial to see if exercise can improve overall cognitive performance.

A team at the University of Southern Queensland (USQ) Ipswich is being led by PhD candidate Edward Bliss.

He said more than half of Australian dementia cases were preventable through healthy lifestyle choices, and this new study will dig even deeper.

"Exercise improves the health of our heart and blood vessels in our body, and we're exploring if it can also improve the health of small blood vessels in the brain that are responsible for the delivery of nutrients the brain needs to function at its best," said Mr Bliss.

"Our research team believes that if we can improve the health of these vessels, then we may be able to prevent or slow the progress of cognitive disorders, such as dementia."

He is looking for more than 130 volunteers to take part in a 16-week trial at USQ's new Clinical Research Facility at Ipswich.

"We are seeking older adults who are not physically active but are keen to see if aerobic exercise, such as fast-paced walking, can help them make a lifestyle change and improve their health and wellbeing," he said.

Participants will be divided into two different groups: an exercise group and a waitlist control group. Participants in the exercise group will work out up to four times a week for 16 weeks under the supervision of an accredited exercise physiologist.

The study will bring together a team of experts in medical pathology, exercise science, cardiovascular physiology, psychology and biomedical science. The team will use diagnostic equipment and non-invasive techniques to assess blood vessel and cognitive function, as well as basic health tests.

  • To get involved in the study, or to learn more, contact Edward Bliss at edward.bliss@usq.edu.au or phone (07) 4631-1488.

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