What Is Vascular Dementia?

Written by Active Minds on Tuesday the 21st of August 2018.

News

Dementia is an umbrella term for a series of diseases that affects a person’s mental abilities due to gradual changes and damages to the brain. One of the most common forms of dementia is vascular dementia, responsible for 17% of cases, and is caused by reduced blood flow to the brain.

Vascular Dementia

But what actually is vascular dementia, what are the symptoms and signs and is there any treatment?

Causes

The brain needs a constant supply of blood to carry nutrients and oxygen to keep it functioning properly. This blood is carried via vessels, called the vascular system. However, if the vascular system starts to become damaged or blocked, the blood will struggle to reach the brain, and brain cells will begin to die. Damage or blockages to the vascular system can be caused by a number of reasons, including a stroke.

As the cells being to die, this will start to affect a person’s cognitive abilities (thinking, memory and reasoning). This is called Vascular Dementia.

Symptoms

The symptoms of dementia will be different for every individual, but include:

  • Personality and behavioural changes
  • Confusion and disorientation
  • Problems with memory
  • Issues with speech
  • Difficulty with planning and understanding
  • Problems with balance and walking
  • Inability to look after oneself properly

Symptoms of vascular dementia can develop slowly or come on very suddenly.

Tests

As with all forms of dementia, there are a number of tests you, or your loved one, may have to undertake in order to be diagnosed.

  • An assessment of symptoms
  • An assessment of mental abilities – this will include undertaking a number of tasks and questions
  • Full medical history, including history of issues that are related to vascular dementia e.g. strokes
  • Brain scan e.g. CT scan, MRI scan or SPECT scan – this will look for signs of dementia and any damage to the vessels in the brain

Treatment

Whilst there is currently no cure for vascular dementia, there are treatments available that can slow down the process, as well as lifestyle choices you can make to help reduce the chance of the disease occurring.

This includes:

  • Quitting smoking
  • Losing weight
  • Eating healthily
  • Keeping active and engaging in a range of cognitive and fun activities
  • Limiting alcohol
  • Taking medication for issues such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and to help prevent blood clots