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Vascular Dementia: Causes, Symptoms and More

Did you know there are different types of dementia? Out of the 100-plus forms of dementia, vascular is one of the most common and can affect older adults with chronic cardiovascular conditions. Learn more about this type of dementia and how you can prevent it.


Accounting for 20%-30% of all dementias, vascular dementia causes cognitive decline and memory loss due to a stroke or cardiovascular conditions that decrease blood circulation to the brain. It’s the only dementia that can occur suddenly, depending on the type (stroke-related, post-stroke, single-infarct, multi-infarct, subcortical and mixed), and often coexists with Alzheimer’s disease.


Vascular dementia is caused by any condition that damages blood vessels or interrupts blood flow – including diabetes, heart disease, smoking, hypertension, high cholesterol, obesity and depression. This loss or restriction of blood flow deprives the brain of oxygen and vital nutrients, which permanently damages (and even kills) healthy cells that control cognition, motor skills and other bodily functions.


Depending on the underlying cause, severity of blood vessel damage and part of the brain affected, signs of vascular dementia can present abruptly or gradually overtime with chronic blood vessel conditions. Symptoms of declining cognition and brain function vary widely, including:

  • Confusion, disorientation, and inability to pay attention or concentrate
  • Trouble walking or talking, headaches, numbness and paralysis
  • Impaired planning and judgment, uncontrolled laughing and crying, and changes in behavior


The Food and Drug Administration has not approved any drugs specific to treating vascular dementia; however, there are medications available to help treat symptoms. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, there’s substantial evidence that treatment of risk factors may improve outcomes and help postpone or prevent further decline. Therapies – such as physical, occupational, speech and others – can help retain existing function and enhance quality of life.


With good diet, exercise habits and a healthy lifestyle, as well as taking medication as prescribed for all cardiovascular issues, vascular dementia is the one dementia that can be prevented.

  • Don’t smoke or quit smoking
  • Keep blood pressure in a normal range
  • Limit alcohol consumption
  • Maintain a healthy weight

Seeing signs of vascular dementia in your loved one? Your doctor or a specialist can perform a neurological examination or brain scan – such as CT or FDG-PET, MRI or EEG – to develop a diagnosis. Learn more about dementia and caregiving by visiting our blog or calling our dementia care specialists at 817-877-1199.