Vascular Dementia — What is It?

Experts estimate that 1 in 7 older adults (aged 71+) in the United States lives with some form of dementia. The vast majority of people living with dementia have Alzheimer’s disease, with the second-most common variety being vascular dementia. Receiving a diagnosis for this condition may be scary and come with questions like, “What is vascular dementia?” and “What can I do to support my loved one living with vascular dementia?” Just know that resources are available to your family, and that learning more about the condition can make managing next steps feel more manageable.

What is Vascular Dementia?

Also called:

  • Vascular cognitive impairment
  • Dementia due to cerebrovascular disease

Vascular dementia is a specific type of dementia that occurs due to brain damage from strokes or other injuries to blood vessels in the brain. Stroke injuries lead to reduced blood flow in and to the brain. The parts of the brain with restricted blood supply get less oxygen and blood sugar than they need to function properly, which can ultimately damage and destroy brain cells. Damage to these cells leads to symptoms of dementia like memory loss.

What are the Types of Vascular Dementia?

Dementia is an umbrella term that can encompass many different conditions and symptoms. When people talk about vascular dementia, they could be referring to one of multiple types of vascular dementia, including:

What are the Symptoms of Vascular Dementia?

Getting an early dementia diagnosis is critical to slowing the progression of the condition. That means that knowing the early warning signs of vascular dementia can lead to better treatment.

Symptoms of vascular dementia include:

  • Memory problems and other signs of cognitive decline
  • Difficulty or complete inability to perform daily activities
  • Confusion and sundowning behaviors
  • Symptoms of stroke
  • Shaking or tremors
  • Changes in personality or behavior
  • Swings in mood
  • Difficulties communicating
  • Decrease in critical thinking skills/impaired judgment
  • Coordination and balance issues
  • Incontinence

What are the Causes of Vascular Dementia?

Other conditions—like heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and atherosclerosis (thickening of arteries)—can directly cause vascular dementia. That means that the risk factors for vascular dementia are also risk factors for these conditions, which can include:

  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • High cholesterol
  • Brain damage
  • Age
  • Smoking
  • Hormonal birth control
  • Vascular disease (vasculopathy) like cerebral small vessel disease and cerebral amyloid angiopathy
  • Atrial fibrillation
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Family history
  • Being overweight or obese

How is Vascular Dementia Treated?

Some risk factors for vascular dementia are beyond control, like family history. Others, however, are manageable with lifestyle changes and medical help.

Treatment options for this condition include:

Caring for a Loved One with Vascular Dementia

Everyone in the St. Andrew’s network cares about our residents. Our staff members receive specialized training to work with residents living with memory problems, meaning they are knowledgeable on your loved one with dementia’s unique needs.

Communities in the St. Andrew’s network offer several levels of care that are designed for individuals experiencing memory problems resulting from vascular dementia, including:

Contact us today to learn more about what vascular dementia is and how we can accommodate your family member living with this condition.

Disclaimers: This article is for informational purposes only and cannot be used to diagnose, treat, prevent, or cure any disease or condition. Please direct any and all healthcare concerns to a licensed healthcare provider.

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