As the most common form of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease impacts approximately 5.8 million people in the United States. However, there is another, lesser-known form of dementia causing cognitive issues in seniors: vascular dementia. Understanding vascular dementia symptoms and risk factors, along with the unique attributes that make it different from Alzheimer’s, is essential to obtaining a correct diagnosis and treatment.
Who’s Vulnerable to Vascular Dementia?
Unlike Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia is caused by too little oxygen and blood flow to the brain, such as occurs during a stroke or TIA (Transient Ischemic Attack). As a matter of fact, as many as 25 – 33% of strokes lead to some degree of dementia. So, anybody at an increased risk for stroke is also at an increased risk for vascular dementia.
Other risk factors also include:
- Age: risk goes up after age 65
- Gender: men tend to be at greater risk than women
- High blood pressure and/or cholesterol
- Cardiovascular disease or heart attack
- Blood vessel disease
- Hardened arteries
- An irregular heartbeat
- Lifestyle choices, like tobacco use and drinking alcohol
Vascular Dementia Symptoms and Signs
Symptoms can come on all of a sudden following a significant stroke, or gradually after a mini-stroke or TIA. In general, these warning signs often appear in conjunction with vascular dementia:
- Short-term memory decline
- Struggles with planning, concentrating on, or completing chores and activities
- Issues with money management
- Confusion when trying to follow instructions
- Wandering and getting lost in places that were once familiar
- Inappropriate laughing or crying
- Hallucinations or delusions
Is It Alzheimer’s or Vascular Dementia?
There are several key differences between the two:
- The cause of Alzheimer’s disease is unknown. It usually progresses slowly and steadily, with balance and coordination issues occurring within the later stages of this disease.
- Vascular dementia is caused by a stroke or TIA, and it is linked to other vascular problems (such as unhealthy blood pressure/cholesterol levels). The advancement of this variety of dementia takes place in distinct phases, with balance and coordination problems in the initial stage.
While there is no cure for vascular dementia, making changes in lifestyle that address the root cause is a must. This may include modifying eating habits and increasing exercise, stopping smoking and refraining from alcohol consumption, and keeping diabetes under control.
Whether dementia, another chronic medical condition, or just the normal effects of growing older, Live Free Home Health Care, the Holderness home care experts, is here to help seniors live their lives to their fullest potential, with meaning, independence, purpose, and safety. Call us at 603-217-0149 for more information and to request a free in-home consultation to find out the numerous ways we can help. For a full list of the communities we serve, visit our Service Area page.