Updated: May 4
Vascular Dementia may account for 12 to 20 percent of all Dementias, and is the second most common age-related Dementia.1
Unlike the gradual progression of Alzheimer's disease, the onset of Vascular Dementia symptoms is often abrupt and occurs when a heart attack or a stroke dramatically reduces blood flow to or through the brain. Hallucinations, rather than the memory loss associated with early-stage Alzheimer's disease, is another indicator of Vascular Dementia.
Vascular Dementia can also have a slow progression. This happens when the accumulative damage of transient ischemic attacks – often called TIAs – causes many small areas of brain damage and, eventually, noticeable symptoms. The descriptive name “multi-infarct Dementia” is the term healthcare providers use to describe this kind of Vascular Dementia. Infarcts refer to the many (multiple) areas of non-functioning brain tissue that accumulate over time. Multi-infarct Dementia is the most common type of Vascular Dementia.1
Depending on the location within the brain, multi-infarct Dementia produces a spectrum of physical, behavioral, and emotional changes. An example of a physical change is shuffling or walking with small rapid steps. Behavioral symptoms can include slurred speech, getting lost in familiar surroundings, and difficulty in following instructions. Sometimes people cry or laugh at inappropriate times.
As you can now appreciate, telling the difference between Alzheimer's disease and Vascular Dementia can be difficult. If the changes appear rapidly, Vascular Dementia, resulting from a stroke or heart attack, is the likely culprit. To make things even more complicated, many people have both Alzheimer's disease and Vascular Dementia.
Their several ways you can reduce the risk for Vascular Dementia. Some of these include: maintaining a healthy blood pressure; eating a healthy, low-fat diet; maintaining a healthy weight; regular exercise; and refraining from or stop smoking.2 It is well worth noting that all of these modifiable conditions and behaviors are ones that affect the cardiovascular system and blood flow to the brain.
Source 1, accessed March 4, 2016 (since has since been updated)
Source 2, accessed March 4, 2016 (website has since been updated)
Content Contributor: Janet Yagoda Shagam, Ph.D., is a freelance medical and science writer and the author of "An Unintended Journey: A Caregiver's Guide to Dementia.", available through Amazon. Please visit our Author's page to learn more and find this title.
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