With more than 5.8 million Americans impacted, Alzheimer’s is by far, the most common form of dementia. However, there is another, less familiar type 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 vital to obtaining the correct diagnosis and treatment.

Who’s Vulnerable to Vascular Dementia?

Unlike Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia is caused by too little oxygen and blood circulation 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 some degree of dementia. So, any person at a greater risk for stroke is also at an increased risk for vascular dementia.

Other risk factors include things like:

  • Age: risk increases after age 65
  • Gender: men are at a higher risk than women
  • High blood pressure and/or cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Cardiovascular disease or heart attack
  • Blood vessel disease
  • Hardened arteries
  • An abnormal heart beat
  • Lifestyle decisions, including using tobacco and excessive drinking

Vascular Dementia Signs and Symptoms

Symptoms can come on unexpectedly following a significant stroke, or slowly after a mini-stroke or TIA. Generally speaking, these warning signs often appear in conjunction with vascular dementia:

  • Short-term memory decline
  • Trouble with concentrating on, planning, or completing chores and activities
  • Problems with money management
  • Confusion when attempting to follow instructions
  • Wandering and getting lost in places that were once familiar
  • Incontinence
  • Inappropriate laughing or crying
  • Hallucinations or delusions

Is It Alzheimer’s or Vascular Dementia?

There are several key differences when comparing the two:

  • The cause of Alzheimer’s disease is as yet not known. It usually progresses slowly, with balance and coordination problems occurring within the later stages of the disease.
  • Vascular dementia is triggered by a stroke or TIA, and is linked to other vascular problems (for example, unhealthy blood pressure/cholesterol levels). The advancement of this type of dementia takes place in specific stages, with balance and coordination problems in the earliest stage.

Treatment Options

While there is no cure for vascular dementia, making lifestyle changes that address the primary cause is crucial. This can include modifying the diet and increasing exercise, stopping smoking and refraining from alcohol consumption, and keeping diabetes in check.

Whether vascular dementia, another chronic health condition, or just the typical effects of getting older, Grace Home Care’s award-winning caregivers in Topeka are here to help older adults live their lives to their fullest potential, with purpose, meaning, independence, and safety. Reach out to us at 785-286-2273 to find out more and to request a complimentary in-home consultation to discover the many ways we are able to help you.