Vascular dementia is caused by disruptions in blood flow to the brain, often resulting from a stroke or other conditions that damage blood vessels. It is the second most common type of dementia after Alzheimer's and can occur alone or alongside other forms of dementia. Risk factors for vascular dementia include age, a history of heart attacks or strokes, atherosclerosis, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, abnormal heart rhythms like atrial fibrillation, and being overweight.
Symptoms of vascular dementia vary depending on the part of the brain affected by reduced blood flow. Unlike Alzheimer's, which primarily impacts memory, vascular dementia is more associated with speed of thinking and problem-solving. People with vascular dementia may experience confusion, reduced ability to concentrate, difficulty organizing thoughts and actions, trouble with tasks they used to handle easily, and declining communication skills. They may also show signs of restlessness, agitation, depression, hallucinations, and loss of interest in activities.
Vascular dementia can develop suddenly following a stroke (post-stroke dementia) or progress gradually after multiple strokes or transient ischemic attacks (TIAs). Preventing vascular dementia involves maintaining heart health and managing risk factors such as blood pressure, cholesterol levels, diabetes, and smoking. Regular physical activity, a healthy low-fat diet, and stress management are essential components of reducing the risk of vascular dementia.
While vascular dementia remains a significant concern, the incidence is declining due to increased awareness and lifestyle changes that prioritize heart health. Preventive measures can have a positive impact on reducing the risk of developing vascular dementia and maintaining overall cognitive well-being.