Vascular dementia is a decline in memory and thinking skills caused by reduced blood flow to the brain.
It often occurs after a stroke but may also happen after several mini-strokes. It can also stem from gradual damage to the blood vessels from diabetes or high blood pressure.
Only about 5% to 10% of people with dementia have vascular dementia alone. It's more likely that someone has vascular dementia with Alzheimer's. Both diseases share many symptoms.
Vascular dementia (also called “vascular cognitive impairment") can take several forms.
Vascular dementia happens when something hinders blood flow to the brain. The blood vessels get blocked or become narrow.
When the brain cells don't have blood, there is permanent damage.
Causes of vascular dementia include:
Some risk factors for vascular dementia are:
Complications of vascular dementia include:
It's not possible to prevent every type of dementia. But your lifestyle can play a role in whether you'll get vascular dementia.
Keeping your heart and blood vessels as healthy as possible is a good start.
To reduce your risk of vascular dementia:
Many symptoms of vascular dementia, including memory loss, mimic Alzheimer's disease. Memory loss may depend on what part of the brain suffered damage.
Symptoms of vascular dementia may come on more quickly than those of Alzheimer's. That's especially true if someone had a major stroke.
Common symptoms of vascular dementia include:
There isn't one single test to diagnose vascular dementia.
To narrow down a diagnosis, you or your loved one's doctor may:
There's no cure for vascular dementia. Any destruction of brain cells is permanent.
Treatment aims at the underlying cause of vascular dementia. At best, treatment can slow down the progression of the disease.
Medicine to treat high blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes may help slow down brain cell damage.
Doctors may prescribe aspirin or blood thinners to reduce the chances of blood clots. Do not take aspirin without checking with your doctor.
Doctors don't use Alzheimer's medicines to treat vascular dementia. But they may use them for people who have both diseases.
Preventing having another stroke may help slow down the progression of vascular dementia.
Your doctor may suggest that you or your loved one:
Occupational and physical therapy may help manage the symptoms of vascular dementia.
They can also help you stay active and mobile as long as possible.
There's no cure for vascular dementia at the current time.
On average, a person lives about five years after symptoms start. Someone with vascular dementia is most likely to die from a stroke or heart attack.