Vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s both affect the brain but in different ways.
Vascular dementia is a decline in judgment and thinking skills caused when blood flow to the brain is blocked or reduced. This deprives brain cells of oxygen and the nutrients it needs to function properly.
Considered the second most common cause of dementia behind Alzheimer’s disease, the two have similar symptoms, especially in the early stages, but have different causes. Alzheimer’s disease attacks the nerve cells in the brain, eventually leading to cell death. Vascular dementia occurs when the brain doesn’t get the nutrients it needs.
Causes of Vascular Dementia
You can develop Vascular dementia suddenly after a stroke or in the case of several mini strokes or other conditions. Smaller blood vessels can be affected over time so initial changes can be subtle. As damage to the small vessels in the brain continues or worsens, symptoms increase and become more noticeable. Other than stroke or brain hemorrhage, conditions leading to Vascular dementia include high blood pressure, hardening of the arteries, diabetes, or lupus.
Symptoms Of Vascular Dementia
Early signs of small vessel damage can be challenging to diagnose and similar to Alzheimer’s, including:
- Impaired judgment or thinking skills
- Having a hard time following instructions or completing tasks like managing money or balancing a checkbook
- Inability to pay attention
- Unexplained laughing or crying
- Impaired function in social situations; and difficulty finding the right words.
Types of Vascular Dementia
Just as Vascular dementia can have different causes, it can also be categorized in various ways based on the type of dementia.
- Stroke-related dementia: This takes place when a stroke causes dementia.
- Post-stroke dementia: According to Alzheimers.org.uk, approximately 20% of people who have a stroke develop post-stroke dementia within 6 months.
- Single-infarct and multi-infarct dementia: Single-infarct and multi-infarct dementia: This is caused when you have one or more mini-strokes, and a clot blocks a larger or medium-sized blood vessel.
- Subcortical dementia: This type of dementia occurs when there are diseases of the small blood vessels in deep parts of the brain. You’ll experience different symptoms from stroke-related dementia because small vessel disease develops deeper than the damage caused by most strokes.
- Mixed Dementia: 10% of those with dementia have mixed dementia. Essentially, both Alzheimer’s Disease and Vascular disease are thought to cause dementia.
Talk To Your Doctor
If you think you, or a loved one, show signs of vascular dementia, it is important to talk to your doctor immediately. If vascular dementia is a possibility, Some lifestyle changes can help prevent further damage.
Avoiding or controlling diabetes, managing high blood pressure, or high cholesterol can reduce the risk of developing vascular dementia.
There are other health reasons someone might experience memory loss – and the reason isn’t always dementia. Thyroid problems, stress, vitamin deficiencies, or certain medications can cause dementia-like symptoms but can be reversed when properly managed and your doctor determines the underlying cause.
What If I Need Dementia Care?
If a medical professional determines you or your loved one is suffering from cognitive decline, you need to research and think about care options. This may be as simple as asking family members to help around the house, hiring nurses, or healthcare aids who come to your home.
In some cases, care in a residential facility becomes necessary, especially in older adults, when spouses who serve as the primary caregivers but can’t physically provide around the clock care for their loved one needs. The possibility of injuring themselves, and the safety of their spouse, becomes a real concern.
Dementia can have a real and devastating impact on families, but it doesn’t mean someone living with cognitive decline can’t live well. The Memory Center communities in Virginia Beach and Midlothian, VA care for those living with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. But our communities and programs are different and specifically designed to meet the needs of an aging brain. We offer every incentive to celebrate life and find purpose each day. A typical day here includes music, art, sports, walks outside, and social activities, including afternoon get-togethers and happy hour in our tavern.
If you are considering care for Alzheimer’s or dementia, contact us for more information or schedule a tour.