What Is Vascular Dementia?

One of the most common causes of cognitive decline in older people is vascular dementia. This is a type of dementia that isn’t easily recognized by people. Vascular dementia is often mistaken as a normal case of forgetfulness. Since vascular dementia is difficult to identify, the number of patients diagnosed with the disease is inaccurate. Up to this day, the records show that 15% to 20% of older people are vascular dementia patients.

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Vascular dementia is described as the lack of blood flow to the brain. Aside from forgetfulness, people diagnosed with this disease experience difficulty with reasoning, planning, judgment, memory, and other thought processing skills of the brain. These complications are the results of brain damage from the decrease in oxygen and nutrient supply in the central nervous system. The disease worsens over time, but there’s still a possibility of slowing it down.

What Causes Vascular Dementia?

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People can acquire vascular dementia when they have medical conditions that block oxygen from entering the brain. The most common condition that results in vascular dementia is stroke. According to WebMD, not everyone who experiences a stroke will develop vascular dementia. However, frequent “silent” strokes can inflict damage to the brain, and, in time, those silent strokes can cause vascular dementia.

Besides stroke, blood clots and damaged blood vessels can provoke multi-infarct dementia. Damaged blood vessels often result from atherosclerosis, infection, high blood pressure, or other causes, such as autoimmune disorders. Lastly, CADASIL or Cerebral Autosomal Dominant Arteriopathy with Sub-Cortical Infarcts and Leukoencephalopathy can lead to vascular dementia. The medical condition is a genetic disorder that inflicts damage to the blood vessels in the brain’s white matter. Signs caused by CADASIL often show during the mid-30s. Based on an article from Hopkins Medicine, CADASIL symptoms include:

  • Migraine
  • Seizures
  • Severe depression

Symptoms of Vascular Dementia

To be able to detect the signs of vascular dementia and consult your doctor as early as possible, you should be aware of the following symptoms:

  • Difficulties with short-term memory
  • Getting lost in familiar surroundings
  • Laughing or crying during inappropriate times
  • Trouble concentrating, planning, or following through with activities
  • Trouble managing money
  • Inability to follow instructions
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control
  • Hallucinations or delusions

These symptoms will appear mild for a long time, but if frequent occurrence happens, medical consultation must follow. Once symptoms get worse, it can lead to a stroke. Moreover, people showing early signs of vascular dementia might have problems with walking or balancing. Meanwhile, impaired coordination often shows late in a person diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

Who Is at Risk for Vascular Dementia?

According to Mayo Clinic, vascular dementia has similar risk factors to heart disease and stroke. Anyone with the following risk factors listed below might be prone to vascular dementia.

  • People aged 65 up to their 90s
  • Health records include heart attacks, strokes, or ministrokes
  • Atherosclerosis
  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Atrial Fibrillation

Furthermore, it was found out that men are more prone to multi-infarct dementia than women.

Vascular Dementia Treatment

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There is no permanent cure for vascular dementia, but early prevention is possible. Choosing a healthy lifestyle at an early age is the most feasible vascular dementia prevention. Keep high blood pressure in check by engaging in physical activities, proper diet, and medication. Maintain a smoke-free and moderate alcohol intake lifestyle.

It’s also best to seek assistance from family and friends once symptoms occur. Reminders and cues are a great way to exercise a person’s memory. Leave notes in several parts of the house with plans and instructions. Daily communication is also essential. Small talks will do, such as reminding them about the date, asking about the weather, reminiscing memories, and so forth. Regular medical appointments and helping the patient follow doctor’s orders can help slow down the effects of vascular dementia.

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