Vascular dementia is the most common form of dementia after Alzheimer’s disease. It affects one’s memory and thought process due to blockage in supply of blood to the brain. Vascular dementia can occur from stroke as well as other conditions that damage the blood vessels and reduce blood circulation, depriving your brain of vital nutrients and oxygen.
What is Vascular Dementia?
Vascular dementia refers to the decline in cognitive skills of a person, resulting in poor reasoning, judgment, and memory. This decline can be mild and unnoticeable or can happen suddenly. This condition is caused by improper blood flow to the brain. Generally, when people suffer a stroke, the blood flow is disrupted and you can develop vascular dementia but strokes don’t always cause vascular dementia.
Whether this blockage of blood to the brain will affect cognitive processes depends on the severity and the location.
Symptoms of Vascular Dementia
The symptoms arising from vascular dementia depend on the part of the brain affected by blockage of blood or stroke. These symptoms can be relatively mild in the beginning. These include:
- Short-term memory problems.
- Wandering around in familiar surroundings.
- Loss of emotional control, with laughing or crying at inappropriate times.
- Difficulty focusing or planning a process.
- Difficulty speaking or understanding things.
- Difficulty keeping track of things.
- Inability to follow instructions.
- Loss of bladder control.
- Loss of bowel control.
- Loss of motor control with an unsteady walk.
- Physical symptoms, such as sudden headaches.
- Paralysis on one side of body or face
- The inability to analyze a situation.
- Inability to decide what to do next
- Restlessness and agitation.
- Mood changes.
- Personality changes.
A stroke happens when the blood carrying oxygen and other nutrients to the brain is suddenly cut off. Not all strokes are major. The piling up of small strokes over a period of time can also cause disability. Such strokes are called silent strokes and show delayed symptoms. Another cause is the narrowing of blood vessels causing damage to the brain. The narrowing of blood vessels is generally related to aging, high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, diabetes, etc. Other factors or conditions that can cause vascular dementia are:
Stages of Vascular Dementia
Vascular dementia occurs in stages. These are:
- Mild impairment, where the person is aware that he or she is losing memory or mental capabilities.
- Severe impairment, which causes dramatic changes in the physical and cognitive abilities of a person.
When to See a Doctor?
If you see any of the symptoms mentioned above, you should contact your healthcare provider. The doctor will carry out a detailed assessment of your condition. This will include:
- Physical examination, including the study of your family history.
- Talking with your near and dear ones to understand the changes in your behavior.
- Checking your motor coordination along with reflexes.
- Neurocognitive tests, including memory, reasoning, judgment, and planning abilities.
- Blood tests to rule out any deficiencies causing dementia.
- Imaging techniques, such as MRI scans, CT scans, and ultrasound scans, can be ordered by the doctor to check the different parts of the brain for damage to nerves or blood vessels because of strokes.
How to Prevent Vascular Dementia?
Vascular dementia is a result of poor blood circulation. The following measures can help prevent this condition.
- Maintaining optimum blood pressure helps.
- Controlling diabetes with diet and exercise will protect the blood vessels from getting damaged.
- Avoiding smoking helps prevent vessel damage.
- Following a healthy routine with physical exercise can help with proper blood circulation.
- Low cholesterol levels will prevent the blood vessels from narrowing or hardening.
- Stress management helps.
- Limiting alcohol and tobacco consumption also helps.
Risk Factors Associated with this Condition
The risk factors associated with vascular dementia are the following:
- Age: People above 60 are at a higher risk.
- Family history: A family history of heart attacks or brain strokes can increase the risk.
- Condition of arteries: The hardening of arteries or atherosclerosis because of cholesterol buildup is a risk factor.
- Atrial fibrillation
At present, there is no treatment available to reverse brain damage. However, by taking certain precautions, the progression of brain damage can be controlled. The treatment plan is exclusive to each patient as the cause for dementia is also usually different. For example, people with heart complications will be given medicines to maintain a steady flow of blood from the heart.
The prognosis will depend on how disciplined a person is in following and maintaining the treatment plan. The preventive measures can prevent further degeneration of brain tissues and increase a person’s life span if followed properly.
Vascular dementia is caused by a restricted blood flow causing ischemia in the brain tissue leading to cognitive impairment. Although there is no cure available, following a healthy lifestyle can reduce the progression, and the patient can live a healthy and peaceful life.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
I experience regular muscle twitches, due to which my whole body shakes. Is this related to poor blood flow that causes the onset of dementia?
Muscle twitches can result from various underlying conditions. If you are experiencing twitches of this nature, it is best to contact your doctor immediately.
My family has a history of heart attacks and brain strokes. Should I be worried about vascular dementia?
Vascular dementia is related to strokes that disrupt blood flow to the brain causing loss of cognitive efficacy. If you have experienced a stroke, you should talk to your doctor about any symptoms related to dementia.
I am a patient with hypertension and also have experienced mild cognitive impairment. How should I prevent the progression of dementia?
First, you must contact your healthcare provider and explain the symptoms you have been experiencing. Also, take all preventive measures to maintain healthy blood pressure.