What is Vascular Dementia?
Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a set of symptoms, including memory impairment, reasoning, judgment, language and other thinking skills. Dementia usually begins gradually, worsens over time and impairs a person’s abilities in work, social interactions and relationships.
Although there are many causes of dementia; blood vessel disease, drug and alcohol abuse, and even brain damage, the most common and familiar dementia related conditions are vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
While there are certain similarities in the way symptoms of these conditions present themselves, the differences between alzheimer’s disease vs vascular dementia are simple:
Alzheimer’s disease is characterized by a progressive loss of brain cells and other irregularities of the brain, whereas vascular dementia is a decline in thinking skills caused by conditions that block or reduce blood flow to the brain, depriving brain cells of vital oxygen and nutrients, thus affecting cognitive function, as well as memory.
People who have vascular dementia may experience problems with reasoning, judgment, and memory
These changes can occur suddenly without warning, or they may appear with a gradual onset, and go unnoticed for some time. When blood circulation is reduced to any region of the brain, it becomes damaged quickly and recovers slowly, if at all. Damage to brain tissue can lead to symptoms of dementia.
Vascular dementia symptoms may be most clear-cut when they occur suddenly following a stroke. When changes in your thinking and reasoning seem clearly linked to a stroke, this condition is referred to as post-stroke dementia.
When these symptoms are severe, it may come about that the person is no longer to able to care for themselves. In that case, family caregivers may need to help manage their loved one’s care. It may even be time to consider the option of contacting a senior placement agency to find a suitable assisted living community where the loved one can receive the appropriate care and assistance with daily routines.
Causes of Vascular Dementia
Vascular dementia results from conditions that damage blood vessels in the brain, thereby reducing their ability to supply your brain with the amounts of nutrition and oxygen it needs to perform thought processes effectively.
There are several conditions that can contribute to vascular dementia in older adults and seniors. Most common among these conditions are stroke and narrowed or chronically damaged brain blood vessels.
Strokes that block a brain artery can cause a range of symptoms that may include vascular dementia. But some strokes don’t cause any noticeable symptoms. These silent strokes still increase dementia risk.
As is the case with both silent and apparent strokes, the risk of vascular dementia increases with the number of strokes that occur over time. Cases of vascular dementia involving many strokes is called multi-infarct dementia.
Conditions that narrow or inflict long-term damage on your brain blood vessels also can lead to vascular dementia. These conditions include the wear and tear associated with aging, high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, diabetes, and brain hemorrhage.
Symptoms of Vascular Dementia
The symptoms of vascular dementia vary, depending on which part of the brain is affected. The severity of symptoms depends on the amount of time that brain was deprived of oxygenated blood.
Many symptoms of vascular dementia overlap with other types of dementia, and it is not uncommon for some of these symptoms to go unnoticed. Some common symptoms of vascular dementia include confusion and memory loss, difficulty paying attention and maintaining focus, being easily agitated or upset, unsteady gait or mobility problems, as well as incontinence and frequent urination.
Risk Factors of Vascular Dementia
the risk factors for vascular dementia are largely the same as those for heart disease and stroke. According to the Mayo Clinic, risk factors of vascular dementia include: advanced age, abnormal aging of blood vessels, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, obesity, and atrial fibrillation (abnormal heartbeat).
Preventing Vascular Dementia
The factors that contribute to the health of the blood vessels in the brain are very closely related to the overall health of one’s heart. Taking the appropriate steps to keep your heart healthy may also help reduce your risk of vascular dementia. In order to help safeguard against vascular dementia, it is recommended that one must maintain a healthy blood pressure, prevent or control diabetes, quit smoking, exercise regularly, and keep your cholesterol in check.
Vascular dementia shortens a person’s lifespan. Lifespan can be cut even shorter if another stroke or heart attack causes additional brain damage. The brain is capable of repairing itself to a certain extent. It can regenerate blood vessels to help heal damaged areas.
However, the severity of vascular dementia affects a person’s prognosis. The greater the severity and extent of the damage to the brain, the more likely it becomes that an affected individual will need assistance with everyday tasks. This does not mean however, that an affected individual cannot still lead a happy and full life if given the proper care and assistance.
If you have experience caring for someone who is affected by vascular dementia, leave a comment and share your experience in the section below.