Vascular dementia: what it is and how to prevent it


The gradual and permanent loss of brain function is known as vascular dementia.

It is caused by a series of small cerebrovascular accidents (CVA) over a long period of time. These reduce blood flow to various brain regions, depriving them of oxygen and nutrients. Vascular dementia is the second most common cause of dementia, after Alzheimer’s, and affects memory, thinking, language, judgment, and behavior. Here you can learn about this condition in detail.

What are the symptoms of vascular dementia

Dementia is a syndrome, that is, a group of signs and symptoms that are characterized by cognitive alteration, leading to a loss of autonomy and the need for help or supervision to function and carry out daily activities.

  • What are the risk factors for a stroke

Experts warn that the symptoms of vascular dementia can manifest gradually or progress after each small stroke. In turn, these symptoms will depend on the area of ​​the brain that is affected. Among the most common we can find:

  • Changes at the mood level, such as losing interest in activities that were previously enjoyed.
  • Changes in behavior and personality.
  • Difficulty doing tasks that used to be easy, such as learning new information, keeping track of everyday expenses, playing games, or using electronic devices.
  • Lose objects.
  • Getting lost or disoriented on everyday paths or routes.
  • Loss of skills and social codes.
  • Trouble remembering familiar names, places, or dates.
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As dementia worsens, dependency will increase and the signs may be more obvious:

  • Agitation.
  • Get away from others.
  • Hallucinations.
  • Changes in sleep patterns.
  • Violent behavior.
  • Delusions.
  • Depression.
  • Confused speech or not being able to pronounce words correctly.
  • Inability to recognize danger.
  • Losing the notion of who one is, forgetting facts of personal life.
  • Trouble reading or writing.
  • Trouble doing basic tasks, such as cooking, choosing clothes, or driving.

Risk factors for vascular dementia

Unlike Alzheimer’s, where the risk factors are attributed to age, family inheritance or genetics, vascular dementia also includes the same factors as heart disease:

  • atherosclerosis: occurs when deposits of cholesterol and other substances (plaques) build up in the arteries and narrow the blood vessels. Atherosclerosis can increase the risk of vascular dementia by reducing the blood flow that nourishes the brain.
  • Diabetes: High blood glucose levels damage blood vessels in the brain, increasing the risk of stroke and vascular dementia.
  • Age: Vascular dementia is rare before the age of 65, while it appears more frequently around the age of 90.
  • atrial fibrillation: is the abnormal heart rhythm, when the upper chambers of the heart begin to beat rapidly and irregularly without coordination with the lower chambers. Atrial fibrillation increases the risk of stroke because it causes blood clots to form in the heart that can break off and travel to blood vessels in the brain.
  • Clinic history: If you’ve had a heart attack or stroke, you may be at higher risk of developing problems with the blood vessels in your brain, and therefore vascular dementia.
  • high blood pressure levels: Puts blood vessels under excessive stress throughout the body, including the brain. This increases the risk of having vascular dementia.
  • elevated cholesterol levels: the presence of “bad” cholesterol in the blood is usually associated with an increased risk of vascular dementia.
  • Obesity: it is a known risk factor for vascular diseases in general and is therefore presumed to increase the risk of vascular dementia.
  • smoking: directly damages blood vessels, increasing the risk of atherosclerosis and other circulatory diseases, including vascular dementia.
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How to prevent vascular dementia

The researchers explain that there is no treatment to repair the damage caused to the brain by small strokes responsible for vascular dementia.

Therefore, the best way to combat this condition is by controlling the symptoms and correcting the risk factors, to prevent future accidents. You can achieve this with the following tips:

  • control the weight: overweight and obesity are among the most important factors in preventing strokes and other conditions that favor their appearance, such as cardiovascular problems or diabetes. Along with a good diet, abandoning a sedentary lifestyle and engaging in physical activity is essential.
  • Controls blood pressure levels (less than 140/90 mm/Hg) and “bad” cholesterol (less than 70 mg/dL): Neglecting these conditions can favor the damage of the blood vessels and the obstruction of the arteries.
  • eat a healthy diet: try to incorporate a lot of fruits, vegetables, seeds, grains and fish or lean meats, while reducing or avoiding fatty, sugary, fried or processed foods.
  • Do not smoke: among the different damages caused by this vice is the obstruction of the blood vessels.
  • Reduce alcohol consumption: Although having one drink a day is not harmful, when it becomes a habit and is consumed in excess, alcohol can raise blood pressure and generate reactions in the functioning of the body that favor the appearance of a stroke.
  • Other considerations

    It is important that if someone in your home has vascular dementia, they are helped to manage confusion, agitation, and sleep and behavior problems.

    Objects that represent a danger to their safety should also be removed or certain rooms adapted to avoid any danger.

    Currently, there is no evidence to show that using drugs to treat Alzheimer’s is effective against vascular dementia.

    Sources consulted: US National Library of Medicine, Mayo Clinic, National Institute of Mental Health, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

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