“You might have to fight a battle more than once to win it”
-Margaret Thatcher, world’s first female to lead a major Western democracy and patron of the Alzheimer’s Research UK. Diagnosed with Vascular Dementia after a series of mini strokes.
Vascular Dementia is caused by brain damage from impaired blood flow to your brain, resulting in problems with reasoning, planning, judgement, memory and other thought processes. Vascular dementia is the second most common form of dementia after Alzheimer’s disease - accounting for at least 15-20% of cases. However, many experts believe that vascular dementia remains under-diagnosed or misdiagnosed.
Similar to Alzheimer’s disease, the incidence of vascular dementia increases steeply with age. This contributes to dementia being a growing epidemic in aging populations.
IS IT GENETIC
Rarely. In most cases, vascular dementia itself is not inherited. However, the underlying health issues that sometimes contribute to this condition, such as high blood pressure or diabetes, may be passed on from one generation to another. 1
IS THERE A CURE
No, at this time, there is no cure or treatment beyond comfort. However, by treating/controlling underlying cardiovascular diseases impacting the blood supply (ex: high blood pressure, high cholesterol and heart disease), it is possible to slow the progression.
Since risk factors for Vascular Dementia are the same as those for heart disease and stroke, the prevention advice is the same. Keep these prevention tips in mind and to reduce your risk against the 1st (Heart disease) and 3rd (dementia) cause of death in the United States.
Healthy heart and a healthy brain go hand in hand. Keeping your brain’s blood vessels healthy goes hand in hand with your overall heart health and therefore reduces your risk of vascular dementia. The MayoClinic recommends:
- Maintain a healthy blood pressure. Keeping your blood pressure in the normal range may help prevent both vascular dementia and Alzheimer's disease.
- Prevent or control diabetes. Avoiding the onset of type 2 diabetes, with diet and exercise, is another possible way to decrease your risk of dementia. If you already have diabetes, controlling your glucose levels may help protect your brain blood vessels from damage.
- Quit smoking. Smoking tobacco damages blood vessels everywhere in your body.
- Get physical exercise. Regular physical activity should be a key part of everyone's wellness plan. In addition to all of its other benefits, exercise may help you avoid vascular dementia.
- Keep your cholesterol in check. A healthy, low-fat diet and cholesterol-lowering medications if you need them may reduce your risk of strokes and heart attacks that could lead to vascular dementia, probably by reducing the amount of plaque deposits building up inside your brain's arteries.
Vascular symptoms vary. It depends what part of the brain which blood flow has been impaired. There is overlap in symptoms with other dementia diseases. Studies show that many people with dementia and evidence of brain vascular disease also have Alzheimer's disease. Seeing a specialist can help correctly diagnose vascular dementia and assist with care. Vascular dementia signs and symptoms include:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Trouble paying attention and concentrating
- Reduced ability to organize thoughts or actions
- Decline in ability to analyze a situation, develop an effective plan and communicate that plan to others
- Difficulty deciding what to do next
- Problems with memory
- Restlessness and agitation
- Unsteady gait
- Sudden or frequent urge to urinate or inability to control passing urine
- Depression or apathy
Note: Links/URLs are great when they work, a huge annoyance when they don’t. They may update faster than we can catch them. To help keep up, in addition to the link, we’ve included the description of the location of the information to assist with good old fashioned web searching.
Disease specific information and support:
- Mayo Clinic, Vascular Dementia
- Helpguide Nonprofit for Vascular Dementia
- A Patient's Guide to Vascular Dementia (PDF from UCSF)
Caregiving support: Family Caregiver Alliance (FCA):
Research and clinical trial information:
DID YOU KNOW… THREE FAST FACTS
- Is the second most common cause of dementia in people over 65 but also the most preventative. See self-care options listed above.
- Can be developed after a stroke that blocks an artery in the brain.
- Progress can be slowed down.
1 Alzheimer’s Society, UK
2 Additional resources for this page information include Mayo Clinic, UCSF Memory Care and Aging Center and the Alzheimer's Association.