Vascular Dementia

Overview

Definition

Vascular dementia (VD) is when the brain doesn't get enough oxygen. This damages brain cells.

Healthy and Injured Brain Blood Vessels
Blood Flow and Lack of Blood Flow to the Brain
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Causes

VD happens when brain cells die because they do not get enough oxygen. This is due to narrowing or blocking of the vessels that carry blood to the brain.

Risk Factors

VD is more common in older adults. It is also more common in people who have or more of these risk factors:

  • History of smoking
  • Lack of activity
  • Obesity
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Stroke
  • Heart disease
  • Atrial fibrillation
  • Peripheral artery disease
  • Chronic kidney disease

SymptomsandDiagnosis

Symptoms

Problems vary from person to person. It depends on the part of the brain that is affected.

A person may have:

  • Changes in memory, thinking, or acting that may get in the way of daily activities
  • Problems controlling urine
  • Problems walking
  • Mood changes

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. Test may also be done to assess thinking abilities.

Blood tests may be done. It can rule out other health problems that may cause dementia.

Pictures may be taken of your brain and body structures. This can be done with:

  • MRI scan
  • CT scan

Treatments

Treatment

There is no cure for VD. The goal is to slow VD and improve quality of life.

Medicine may be given to improve thinking and function. Dietary supplements may also be used.

Underlying health problems will also need to be treated, such as:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart arrhythmias
  • High cholesterol
  • Conditions that cause the blood to clot
  • Diabetes

Prevention

To lower the risk of VD:

  • Avoid using tobacco.
  • Limit alcohol.
  • Manage health problems, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes.
  • Maintain a healthy weight through diet and exercise.

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Edits to original content made by Denver Health.

a (Binswanger’s Disease; Senile Dementia; Binswanger’s Type; Vascular Cognitive Impairment; Arteriosclerotic Dementia; Atherosclerotic Disease)

RESOURCES

Alzheimer’s Association http://www.alz.org 

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke http://www.ninds.nih.gov 

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Alzheimer Society of Canada http://www.alzheimer.ca 

Heart and Stroke Foundation http://www.heartandstroke.com 

References

Sabayan B, Sorond FA. Reducing risk of dementia in older age. JAMA. 2017;317(19):2028.

Sorond FA, Whitehead S, et al. Proceedings from the Albert Charitable Trust Inaugural Workshop on white matter and cognition in aging. Geroscience. 2020;42(1):81-96.

Vascular cognitive impairment. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:  https://www.dynamed.com/condition/vascular-cognitive-impairment  . Accessed October 5, 2020.

Vascular dementia. Alzheimer's Association website. Available at: http://www.alz.org/dementia/vascular-dementia-symptoms.asp. Accessed October 5, 2020.

Vascular dementia: A resource list. National Institute on Aging website. Available at: https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/vascular-dementia-and-vascular-cognitive-impairment-resource-list. Accessed October 5, 2020.