vascular dementia

Vascular dementia involves problems with thinking or remembering caused by a disruption in blood flow in the brain. It can start after a large stroke or a series of small strokes blocks blood vessels in the brain. Or, vascular dementia can occur when blood vessel damage causes bleeding in the brain. Conditions like high blood pressure and hardening of the arteries contribute to the damage that triggers vascular dementia.

When blood vessels are blocked or narrowed, brain tissues are prevented from getting the oxygen-rich blood they need to function normally. Without blood, the tissues die, leading to cognitive problems.

Vascular dementia can occur on its own, or together with Alzheimer?s disease or other forms of dementia. Vascular dementia might come on suddenly if it follows a stroke. Or, the memory loss and mental decline may be more gradual if they result from a series of small strokes.

Symptoms of vascular dementia depend on how much brain tissue and which areas of the brain have been damaged. They may include memory loss, confusion, trouble concentrating, difficulty making decisions, agitation, depression, and trouble speaking or understanding.

Anyone who has had a stroke or transient ischemic attack (mini-stroke) may be at risk for vascular dementia. People with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and blood vessel disease are also at higher risk. Those with risk factors may need screening to evaluate their memory and thinking ability.

No treatments exist for vascular dementia, but some of the drugs that have been approved to treat Alzheimer?s disease?including the cholinesterase inhibitors (Aricept, Exelon, Razadyne) and memantine (Namenda)?can help with symptoms.

Vascular dementia is preventable with lifestyle modifications. Controlling your weight, blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol with diet and exercise can reduce your risk of getting this condition. Avoiding cigarettes and limiting alcohol are two other good prevention strategies.

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