Vascular Dementia

What is Vascular Dementia?

Vascular dementia, which is also known as vascular cognitive impairment, refers to a decline in a person’s thinking skills. This decline is caused by conditions that reduce or block adequate amounts of blood flow to the brain. As a result of inhibited blood flow, brain cells are deprived of nutrients and oxygen.

This condition is also the second most common cause of dementia, following Alzheimer’s disease.

What are the Symptoms of Vascular Dementia?

Changes in an individual’s thinking skills can develop quickly following a stroke. However, this condition could also start off as mild symptoms that gradually worsen and cause cumulative damage.

Symptoms will be dependent on the area of the brain that is affected, as well as the extent of the damage.

Signs of vascular dementia could include:

  • Wandering and getting lost, even while in familiar environments
  • Having problems with language and speech
  • Having issues with short-term memory
  • Exhibiting a decrease in visuospatial skills
  • Crying or laughing during inappropriate moments
  • Having trouble following through on plans, managing finances, making plans, or concentrating
  • Showcasing an inability to follow directions
  • Experiencing delusions or hallucinations
  • Suffering from loss of control of the bowel or bladder
  • Experiencing changes in mood, such as anxiety, depression, and apathy

Vascular Dementia Causes

Vascular dementia is one of the leading forms of dementia in the world. The basic cause of this type of dementia is that the supply of blood to the brain is restricted causing depletion of oxygen, resulting in damage to the brain over time.

Stroke is a major cause of vascular dementia. A large stroke that blocks blood supply for an extended period may result in vascular dementia. However, small strokes over a period of time can also damage the brain.

Other conditions that may lead to vascular dementia include high blood pressure and atherosclerosis as they cause a restriction in the blood flow to the brain.

A major factor contributing to vascular dementia is age. The chances of being diagnosed with any type of dementia increase exponentially as one passes the age of 70.

How is Vascular Dementia Treated?

There currently aren’t any treatments available to repair damage caused by vascular dementia. However, a doctor can take steps to prevent further damage.

For example, efforts can be taken to reduce cholesterol and blood pressure, prevent blood clots, keep arteries clear, and keep blood sugar under control.

Alzheimer’s medications, such as cholinesterase inhibitors and Memantine, may also be prescribed to patients suffering with vascular dementia.

Vascular Dementia Prevention

The key to preventing vascular dementia is to work on preventing those factors which may lead to a decreased blood supply to the brain. Prevention entails limiting those things which may lead to stroke, high blood pressure, and lack of oxygen reaching the brain.

It is important to eat a healthy diet and to keep one’s weight in check. Maintaining a proper balance of good and bad cholesterol is vital. Also, limiting the amount of fat and sugar in the diet is very beneficial.

Exercise is very important. Exercise helps keep the heart strong and healthy, and it keeps weight in check.

Another important prevention factor is to never smoke. Smoking is a health hazard, period. Also, alcohol consumption should be limited.

It is important for all patients to see their doctor to make sure that their blood pressure remains controlled. Medication may be needed if diet and exercise are not sufficient. Also, heart rhythm problems may contribute to vascular dementia. A doctor can check heart rhythm and treat any irregularities.

Last Reviewed:
October 11, 2016
Last Updated:
September 10, 2017