Vascular dementia causes a decline in cognitive function. It is caused by a blockage or lack of blood flow to the brain - often from a stroke or transient ischemic attack (also known as TIA). Lack of oxygen and blood can damage the brain, even in a short period of time. It is related to vascular problems like high cholesterol and high blood pressure, heart attack, diabetes, and heart disease.
Symptoms can vary. It depends on which part of the brain is affected and how serious the damage is. Generally, symptoms are problems with short-term memory; trouble concentrating, planning or following through on activities; trouble managing money; not being able to follow instructions; wandering or getting lost in familiar areas; laughing or crying at inappropriate times; incontinence; hallucinations or delusions.
Symptoms are usually the most obvious after a major stroke. Symptoms that suddenly get worse often signal another stroke. Post-stroke changes can be symptoms such as confusion and disorientation; trouble speaking or understanding speech; vision loss. These cognitive changes often happen along with physical stroke symptoms, like sudden headache, difficulty walking, or numbness or paralysis on one side of the face or body.
Multiple small strokes or other conditions that affect blood vessels often cause gradual changes in cognitive function and early signs can include: impaired planning and judgment; trouble finding the right words; difficulty in social situations; uncontrolled laughing and crying; reduced ability to pay attention.
As stated earlier, it is possible and even fairly common to have both Vascular dementia along with Alzheimer's disease. It is the most common form of mixed dementia. (Mixed dementia is more than one form of dementia at the same time) When that happens, the person could have symptoms of both types of dementia.
The difference between Vascular dementia and Alzheimer's is that Vascular is caused by stroke or TIA vs Alzheimer's has no known cause. Vascular symptoms usually progress in noticeable stages vs Alzheimer's -worsen at a slow steady pace. Vascular has early impaired coordination or balance vs Alzheimer's which usually has impaired coordination or balance happening late in the disease. Vascular is related to problems like high cholesterol and high blood pressure vs Alzheimer's which has an increased risk with age.
A high risk for stroke = a higher risk for vascular dementia. Approximately 25-35% of strokes are thought to cause some amount of dementia. Vascular dementia is more common in men than women and in people aged 60-75. It is rare before age 65.
There is no cure for vascular dementia, but the earlier it's diagnosed the better chance of reducing the impact and severity of symptoms. Lifestyle changes can help prevent further damage and slow the progression of symptoms. Of course, things like keeping diabetes under control reduces damage as well as reducing the use of alcohol and smoking.