With more than 5.8 million Americans diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, it is one of the most common forms of dementia. However,  there’s another, less familiar type of dementia causing cognitive issues in seniors: vascular dementia. Knowing the risk factors, symptoms and signs of vascular dementia, along with the unique attributes that set it apart from Alzheimer’s, is crucial to obtaining a proper diagnosis and treatment.

Who Is at Risk for Vascular Dementia?

In contrast to Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia is brought on by a lack of oxygen and the flow of blood to the brain, such as occurs during a stroke or TIA (Transient Ischemic Attack). As a matter of fact, as many as 25 – 33% of strokes result in some degree of dementia. So, anyone at a heightened risk for stroke is also at an increased risk for vascular dementia.

Other risk factors include:

  • Age: risk increases after age 65
  • Gender: men are at greater risk than women
  • Elevated blood pressure and/or cholesterol levels
  • Having diabetes
  • Cardiovascular illnesses or heart attack
  • Blood vessel disease
  • Hardened arteries
  • An abnormal heart rhythm
  • Lifestyle decisions, including using tobacco and drinking alcohol

Symptoms and Signs of Vascular Dementia

Symptoms can come on abruptly following a significant stroke, or gradually following a mini-stroke or TIA. Generally speaking, these warning signs often appear in conjunction with vascular dementia:

  • Short-term memory decline
  • Difficulty with completing, planning, or concentrating on responsibilities and activities
  • Issues with money management
  • Confusion when attempting to follow instructions
  • Wandering and becoming lost in locations that were previously familiar
  • Incontinence
  • Inappropriate laughing or crying
  • Hallucinations or delusions

Is It Alzheimer’s or Vascular Dementia?

There are several key differences between the two:

  • The cause of Alzheimer’s disease is not known. It usually progresses gradually, with balance and coordination problems occurring in the later stages of the disease.
  • Vascular dementia is caused by a stroke or TIA, and is associated with other vascular problems (for example, unhealthy blood pressure/cholesterol levels). The progression of this type of dementia happens in distinct stages, with balance and coordination problems in the earliest stage.

Treatment Options

While there is no cure for vascular dementia, making changes in lifestyle that deal with the root cause is essential. This can include modifying the diet and incorporating more exercise, stopping smoking and refraining from alcohol consumption, and keeping diabetes in check.

Whether it’s dementia, another chronic health condition, or just the normal effects of getting older, Home With You Senior Care, a respected and award-winning provider of home care Glyndon, MD, is here to help older adults live their lives to their fullest potential, with purpose, meaning, independence, and safety. Reach out to us at 410-756-0959 for more information and to request a complimentary in-home consultation to find out the numerous ways we are able to assist you. To view a list of all of the communities in which we provide care, visit our Locations Served page.