Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia in the United States, impacting an estimated 5.8 million people. However,  there is another, lesser-known form of dementia causing cognitive impairment in seniors: vascular dementia. Understanding the symptoms and risk factors, along with the unique attributes that set it apart from Alzheimer’s, is crucial to obtaining the correct diagnosis and treatment.

Who’s Vulnerable to Vascular Dementia?

Unlike 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. In fact, as many as 25 – 33% of strokes lead to 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: males are more at risk than females
  • Elevated blood pressure and/or cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Cardiovascular disease or heart attack
  • Blood vessel disease
  • Hardened arteries
  • An abnormal heartbeat
  • Lifestyle choices, such as using tobacco and alcohol consumption

Vascular Dementia Symptoms

Symptoms can come on suddenly following a major stroke, or more gradually following a mini-stroke or TIA. In general, these warning signs often can be found in conjunction with vascular dementia:

  • Short-term memory decline
  • Struggles with planning, concentrating on, or completing tasks and activities
  • Difficulties with money management
  • Confusion when trying to follow instructions
  • Wandering and becoming disoriented in locations that were once familiar
  • Incontinence
  • Inappropriate laughing or crying
  • Delusions or hallucinations

Is It Vascular Dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease?

There are several key differences when comparing the two:

  • What causes Alzheimer’s disease is not known. It usually progresses slowly and steadily, with balance and coordination problems occurring within the later stages of this disease.
  • Vascular dementia is triggered by a stroke or TIA, and it is linked to other vascular problems (like unhealthy blood pressure/cholesterol levels). The progression of this type of dementia occurs in distinct phases, with balance and coordination problems in the initial stage.

Treatment Plans

While there is no cure for vascular dementia, making lifestyle changes that deal with the root cause is a must. This may include modifying the diet and increasing exercise, stopping smoking and refraining from drinking alcohol, and keeping diabetes under control.

Whether vascular dementia, another chronic health condition, or just the normal effects of getting older, Compassionate Nursing Services, an expert provider of in home care in Oakville, MO and surrounding communities, is here to help seniors live their lives to the fullest, with independence, purpose, meaning, and safety. Call us today at 314-432-4312 for more information and to request a free in-home consultation to learn the numerous ways we can assist you. To view the full list of communities we serve, visit our Service Area page.