With as many as 5.8 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s, most people are familiar with the signs and symptoms of this disease. However,  there is another, less familiar form of dementia causing cognitive impairment in seniors: vascular dementia. Understanding vascular dementia signs, 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 Is at Risk for Vascular Dementia?

In contrast to 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). In fact, as many as 25 – 33% of strokes cause some amount of dementia. So, someone at a heightened risk for stroke is also at risk for vascular dementia.

Other risk factors include:

  • Age: risk goes up after the age of 65
  • Gender: males are at greater risk than females
  • Elevated blood pressure and/or cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Cardiovascular illnesses or heart attack
  • Blood vessel disease
  • Hardened arteries
  • An abnormal heartbeat
  • Lifestyle choices, including using tobacco use and drinking alcohol

Vascular Dementia Signs & Symptoms

Symptoms can come on abruptly following a major stroke, or more gradually as a result of a mini-stroke or TIA. Generally speaking, these warning signs often can be found in conjunction with vascular dementia:

  • Short-term memory decline
  • Struggles with concentrating on, planning, or completing responsibilities and activities
  • Difficulties with managing finances
  • Confusion when attempting to follow directions
  • Wandering about and becoming disoriented in places that were once familiar
  • Incontinence
  • Inappropriate laughter or crying
  • Delusions or hallucinations

Is It Alzheimer’s or Vascular Dementia?

There are several key differences between the two:

  • The cause of Alzheimer’s disease is not known. It usually progresses slowly and steadily, with balance and coordination problems occurring in the later stages of the disease.
  • Vascular dementia is a result of a stroke or TIA, and it is associated with other vascular problems (for example, 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 Options

While there is no cure for vascular dementia, making changes in lifestyle that deal with the primary cause is essential. This may include modifying eating habits and increasing exercise, quitting smoking and refraining from alcohol consumption, and keeping diabetes under control.

Whether it is dementia, another chronic health condition, or just the normal effects of getting older, Inspired Home Care, a respected provider of elder care Barrington, IL, is here to help seniors live their lives to their fullest potential, with meaning, independence, purpose, and safety. Call us at 847-787-7572 to learn more and to request a no-cost in-home consultation to learn the countless ways we can help you. To view our full service area, visit our Locations Served page.