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What Is Vascular Dementia And What Causes It

What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Vascular Dementia

Vascular dementia and what can cause it? | The Check up

Symptoms of vascular dementia can appear suddenly and may progress slowly over time. People with vascular dementia may experience:

  • Difficulty performing tasks that used to be easy, such as paying bills
  • Trouble following instructions or learning new information and routines
  • Forgetting current or past events
  • Misplacing items
  • Getting lost on familiar routes
  • Problems with language, such as finding the right word or using the wrong word
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Loss of interest in things or people
  • Changes in personality, behavior, and mood, such as depression, agitation, and anger
  • Hallucinations or delusions
  • Poor judgment and loss of ability to perceive danger

Symptoms may depend on the size, location, and number of damaged areas of the brain.

What Are The Vauses Of Vascular Dementia

Any condition that damages blood vessels anywhere in the body can cause brain changes linked to vascular dementia. Advancing age is a major risk factor.

Additional risk factors are the same ones that raise risk for heart problems, stroke, and other diseases that affect blood vessels. Follow these steps to reduce the risk of developing vascular dementia:

  • Dont smoke
  • Keep a healthy blood pressure, cholesterol level, and blood sugar
  • Eat a healthy diet

What Causes Vascular Dementia

Vascular dementia is caused by different conditions that interrupt the flow of blood and oxygen supply to the brain and damage blood vessels in the brain.

People with vascular dementia almost always have abnormalities in the brain that can be seen on MRI scans. These abnormalities can include evidence of prior strokes, which are often small and sometimes without noticeable symptoms. Major strokes can also increase the risk for dementia, but not everyone who has had a stroke will develop dementia.

Other abnormalities commonly found in the brains of people with vascular dementia are diseased small blood vessels and changes in “white matter” the connecting “wires” of the brain that are critical for relaying messages between brain regions.

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Fca Fact And Tip Sheets

A listing of all FCA fact and tip sheets is available online at

The National Stroke Association provides education, information and referral, and research on stroke for families, health care professionals, and others interested in or affected by stroke.

American Stroke AssociationThe American Stroke Association offers information and sponsors programs and support groups throughout the nation for stroke survivors and family members.

American Heart AssociationThe American Heart Association provides public health education to community members, healthcare professionals, and to lawmakers and policymakers.

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Strokewww.ninds.nih.govThe National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke supports and performs basic, translational, and clinical neuroscience research through grants-in-aid, contracts, scientific meetings, and through research in its own laboratories, and clinics.

Family Caregiver Alliance®

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Products For Vascular Dementia

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At Healthcare Pro, we are experts in equipment that helps support people to live independently or with the help of a carer, including vascular dementia products. These daily living aids and assistive technology aids can help a person in various aspects of daily life, and we give some examples below.

If you would like to speak to one of our Occupational Therapists to find if there are any daily living aids that may help you or someone you care for, please email them or telephone .

PLEASE NOTE: our Product Advice Team can only give advice about equipment and products which may help you to live more independently. They cannot give any advice on medications or treatments for symptoms of this condition.

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Vascular Dementia Life Expectancy

Vascular dementia will usually get worse over time. This can happen in sudden steps, with periods in between where the symptoms dont change much, but its difficult to predict when this will happen.

Home-based help will usually be needed, and some people will eventually need care in a nursing home.

Although treatment can help, vascular dementia can significantly shorten life expectancy. But this is highly variable and many people live for a number of years with the condition or die from some other cause.

What Are The Symptoms And Signs Of Vascular Dementia

A patient with vascular dementia often exhibits physical symptoms of the stroke like paralysis or loss of bladder control. Dementia symptoms usually worsen in a stepwise manner in a stroke-related dementia, making the patient completely dependent on the caregiver in the later stages. The most common symptoms of vascular dementia include:

  • Memory loss

It is very difficult to diagnose vascular cognitive impairment. But people who are at high-risk for developing dementia must undergo certain tests to access their cognitive functioning. Diagnosis of vascular dementia involves the following tests:

  • History from the patient or relatives
  • Complete general and neurological examination. Memory, reasoning and thinking abilities should also be assessed.
  • Blood tests to check thyroid or vitamin deficiencies, cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
  • ECG to check heart function
  • Brain imaging techniques like CT scan, MRI imaging for identifying any infarcts, strokes or abnormalities in the brain.

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What Is The Difference Between Vascular Dementia And Alzheimers

Alzheimers is the number one cause of dementia by far, affecting more than 5.5 million people in the United States. Vascular dementia is the second most prevalent form of dementia, affecting approximately 50% of all dementia cases in older adults.

Many medical professionals describe the cognitive decline in those with vascular dementia as step-like, where brain function may hold steady between steps, or symptoms can come on suddenly after an event like a major stroke. In contrast, Alzheimers is a more steady downward decline over time in stages. Typically, symptoms do not come on suddenly for those with Alzheimers but can change significantly from day to day as symptoms progress.

Although some symptoms may overlap in brain functioning between the two forms of dementia, the causes are different. The specific cause of Alzheimers isnt fully understood, but factors like genetics, age, lifestyle, and the environment can contribute to the cause. In comparison, vascular dementia is often caused by a specific event like a stroke or an interruption in blood flow to the brain. Heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol can put a person at higher risk of vascular dementia.

One other unique note about vascular dementia is that it can occur at the same time as Alzheimerscalled mixed dementia. One of the two types is typically more dominant during the diagnosis process, and the more apparent dementia will determine the treatment course.

Causes Of Vascular Dementia

What is vascular dementia?

Vascular dementia is caused by reduced blood supply to the brain due to diseased blood vessels.

To be healthy and function properly, brain cells need a constant supply of blood to bring oxygen and nutrients. Blood is delivered to the brain through a network of vessels called the vascular system. If the vascular system within the brain becomes damaged – so that the blood vessels leak or become blocked – then blood cannot reach the brain cells and they will eventually die.

This death of brain cells can cause problems with memory, thinking or reasoning. Together these three elements are known as cognition. When these cognitive problems are bad enough to have a significant impact on daily life, this is known as vascular dementia.

Dementia and the brain

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People With An Increased Risk

Dementia is more likely to develop in the following types of people. Type II diabetes. Heart disease. Sleep apnea. High blood pressure and high cholesterol. Those with a family history of strokes or dementia. Those from an Indian, Sri Lanka or African Caribbean background. As are those who smoke, drink heavily, consume a fatty diet and refrain from exercise.

Do You Or Someone You Know Have Symptoms Or Risk Factors For This Condition

This is a Vascular Dementia Symptoms Checker. It gathers the most important signs, symptoms, and risk factors for this condition. Therefore, it would help anyone who uses it to determine the likelihood that their symptoms are because of vascular dementia. Besides, it could also result in positive if that person has many risk factors for developing the condition.

Notably, the tool is free to use and would only take a few minutes.

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Does Vascular Dementia Cause Personality Changes

Yes, it is very common for patients to experience personality changes. A person with early-stage vascular dementia will be apathetic.

They can also experience mood swings and be unusually emotional. These patients are very likely to develop anxiety and depression too. This is because these patients are more aware of the problems that their dementia is causing them.

As the disease progresses, these patients often experience episodes of irritability and agitation, very similar to Alzheimers symptoms. However, each patient may experience different symptoms and changes as there is no certainty how it will affect them.

What Is Dementia Symptoms Types And Diagnosis

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Dementia is the loss of cognitive functioning thinking, remembering, and reasoning to such an extent that it interferes with a person’s daily life and activities. Some people with dementia cannot control their emotions, and their personalities may change. Dementia ranges in severity from the mildest stage, when it is just beginning to affect a person’s functioning, to the most severe stage, when the person must depend completely on others for basic activities of living.

Dementia is more common as people grow older but it is not a normal part of aging. Many people live into their 90s and beyond without any signs of dementia.

There are several different forms of dementia, including Alzheimers disease. A persons symptoms can vary depending on the type.

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Is There Treatment Available

While no treatment can reverse damage that has already been done, treatment to prevent additional strokes is very important. To prevent strokes, medicines to control high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease and diabetes can be prescribed. A healthy diet, exercise and avoidance of smoking and excessive alcohol also lessen the risk of further strokes. Sometimes aspirin or other drugs are prescribed to prevent clots from forming in the small blood vessels.

Drugs can also be prescribed to relieve restlessness or depression or to help the person with dementia to sleep better. In some cases surgery known as carotid endarterectomy may be recommended to remove blockage in the carotid artery, the main blood vessel to the brain. Recent research suggests that cholinesterase inhibitor medications such as Donepezil and Galantamine , which are helpful for some people with Alzheimer’s disease, may also be of some benefit to some people with Vascular dementia. However, the evidence is not yet as clear or compelling as that for the use of these medications with Alzheimer’s disease.

Support is available for the person with Vascular dementia, their families and carers. This support can make a positive difference to managing the condition. Dementia Australia provides support, information, education and counselling for people affected by dementia. Up-to-date information about drug treatments is also available from Dementia Australia.

How Does Vascular Dementia Develop

Changes in a persons condition as a result of TIAs or a larger stroke are often sudden, before their condition plateaus. But the damage caused often means the person does not function quite the same way as they did before.

The signs and symptoms of vascular dementia depend on which area of the brain has been affected. Language, reading, writing and communication can be affected in vascular dementia. Memory problems may not be an issue initially, if this area of the brain has not been damaged, although they may occur later on.

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What Causes Dementia

The causes of Alzheimers and related dementias can vary, depending on the types of brain changes that may be taking place. While research has found that some changes in the brain are linked to certain forms of dementia, in most cases, the underlying causes are unknown. Rare genetic mutations may cause dementia in a relatively small number of people.

Although there is no proven prevention, in general, leading a healthy lifestyle may help reduce risk factors that have been associated with these diseases.

What Can You Do

What is Vascular Dementia?

A healthy lifestyle is important to help reduce risk factors of vascular dementia. This includes eating well, limiting alcohol, not smoking, exercising, and managing stress.

If you are concerned about vascular dementia symptoms, talk with your doctor. If you or someone you know has recently been diagnosed, explore the resources on this website and linked below to find out more about the disease, care, support, and research.

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Is Vascular Dementia Hereditary

Vascular dementia isnt hereditary, but the disorders that cause vascular dementia can be.

There are two rare forms of vascular dementia that are caused by mutations in certain genes. Both mainly affect the small blood vessels in the white matter of your brain. They are:

  • CADASIL: Cerebral autosomal dominant arteriopathy with subcortical infarcts and leukoencephalopathy.
  • CARASIL: Cerebral autosomal recessive arteriopathy with subcortical infarcts and leukoencephalopathy.

CADASIL requires only one parent to have the condition for your child to inherit it CARASIL needs both parents to be carriers of the condition for your child to inherit it and show symptoms.

What Is The Best Treatment For Vascular Dementia

There are no definite drugs approved by experts for vascular dementia yet. The signs of vascular dementia may call for different forms of treatment. The most efficient way to prevent the condition from worsening is to control the risk factors. This may delay the development of the condition, even though it does not fully take it away.

Some ways to help prevent the risk factors from developing is through any of the following:

  • Maintain a healthy blood pressure and cholesterol level.
  • Avoid vices such as alcohol and smoking to avoid further damaging the immunity of the body.
  • Do physical exercise as often as possible.
  • Avoid food and practices that may progress the cause of dementia .

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Symptoms And Disease Course

Symptoms differ depending on what part and how much of the brain is affected, and can overlap with those of other types of dementia. Symptoms are likely to be more gradual and less dramatic in multi-infarct than in post-stroke dementia. For example, in multi-infarct dementia a gradual decline in some aspects of speech and language may be noticed, whereas immediately following a stroke there can be a sudden change in speech.

Vascular dementia does generally progress, but the speed and pattern of cognitive decline, motor skills slowing, and mood changes can vary. Some individuals may experience memory loss, whereas others may exhibit changes primarily in mood and behavior.

Like all dementias, individuals in later stages will show overall cognitive changes and will depend on others for care. Symptoms common in both post-stroke and multi-infarct type dementia can include:

  • confusion and difficulty problem-solving
  • changes in mood including loss of interest in regular activities
  • trouble finding the right word
  • motor symptoms including clumsiness and slow or unsteady gait disturbance.

Family caregivers may find it difficult to know how to provide help when symptoms are so variable. Getting a definitive diagnosis will make it easier to provide care now and in the future.

Vascular Dementia Vs Alzheimers

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Alzheimers disease, like vascular dementia, is a form of dementia. In fact, it is the most common type. Some people use the terms interchangeably. However, Alzheimers is a type of dementia, not dementia itself.

Unlike vascular dementia, Alzheimers disease isnt caused by stroke. There is no known cause of Alzheimers, and your risk of developing it increases with age. The Alzheimers Association estimates that it makes up 80 percent of all dementia diagnoses, which is why the two terms are often confused. Vascular problems, such as stroke, high cholesterol, and hypertension, arent related to Alzheimers disease, as they are with vascular dementia.

While Alzheimers can cause memory issues, some of the first signs are not memory related. Adults in the early stages of the disease might have vision, word finding, and spatial difficulties. It can also cause poor judgement in everyday tasks. This differs a bit with vascular dementia, which usually causes memory problems in the earliest stages.

Although vascular dementia and Alzheimers are not the same disease, it is possible to have both. In fact, according to the Alzheimers Society, about 10 percent of people who have dementia have a form called mixed dementia. Most of these cases include both vascular dementia and Alzheimers disease. A person in this situation could exhibit symptoms of both of these types of dementia.

Several conditions and factors can damage blood vessels. They include:

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Those At Risk Of Vascular Dementia

Things that can increase your risk of vascular dementia in later life include:

  • high blood pressure
  • drinking too much alcohol
  • atrial fibrillation and other types of heart disease

These problems increase the risk of damage to the blood vessels in and around your brain. They can also cause blood clots to develop inside them.

Are There Medicines To Treat Vascular Dementia

Though there is no cure for vascular dementia yet, there are medications that can help manage the symptoms. Sometimes medications used to treat memory problems in Alzheimers disease may be helpful for vascular dementia. Sometimes, people with vascular dementia can have mood changes, such as depression or irritability. These can be managed by medications like the ones used for depression or anxiety.

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Is Vascular Dementia A Terminal Illness

Vascular dementia, by itself, is not a terminal illness. However, it is more like a sign that the patients quality of life and functionality will come to a halt.

Dementia does not happen out of a sudden. It is a process that occurs slowly and progressively in which there is a degenerative process of the brain. In vascular dementia, this is not the exception.

Vascular dementia results from several years of a declining vascular function due to increased risk factors and diseases.

It is important to remember that it is rare to find vascular dementia in people younger than 65 years old. The vascular risk factors like high blood pressure and high cholesterol may induce changes in the blood vessels that will lead to this condition.

Nevertheless, this is not a terminal illness. Vascular dementia is the prelude of a decline in the lifestyle of the patients. These patients will begin to rely on their families as they progress from mild cognitive impairment to a more severe decline in cognitive function.

On average, these patients live approximately five years after the symptoms begin. In many cases, these patients die from a stroke or a heart attack.


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