As the most common form of dementia, it is estimated that there are as many as 5.8 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease. However, there’s another, lesser-known type of dementia causing cognitive problems for seniors: vascular dementia. Understanding the symptoms and risk factors, combined with the unique attributes that set it apart from Alzheimer’s, is vital to obtaining the correct diagnosis and treatment.
Who’s at Risk for Vascular Dementia in Seniors?
Unlike Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia is brought on by too little oxygen and blood flow to the brain, such as occurs during a stroke or TIA (Transient Ischemic Attack). The truth is, as many as 25–33% of strokes lead to some degree of dementia. So, someone at a heightened risk for stroke is also at risk for vascular dementia.
Other risk factors include things like:
- Age: risk increases after the age of 65
- Gender: men tend to be more at risk than women
- Hypertension and/or cholesterol
- Having diabetes
- Heart disease or heart attack
- Blood vessel disease
- Hardened arteries
- An abnormal heart beat
- Lifestyle decisions, including smoking and alcohol consumption
Signs and Symptoms of Vascular Dementia in Seniors
Symptoms may come on unexpectedly following a major stroke, or more slowly as a result of a mini-stroke or TIA. In general, these warning signs often come in conjunction with vascular dementia:
- Short-term memory decline
- Issues with planning, concentrating on, or completing tasks and activities
- Issues with money management
- Confusion in trying to follow directions
- Wandering and getting lost in places that were once familiar
- Inappropriate laughter or crying
- Hallucinations or delusions
Is It Vascular Dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease?
There are several key differences when comparing the two:
- The cause of Alzheimer’s disease is not known. It usually progresses gradually and steadily, with balance and coordination problems occurring within the later stages of the disease.
- Vascular dementia is caused by a stroke or TIA, and is associated with other vascular problems (for instance unhealthy blood pressure/cholesterol levels). The progression of this type of dementia occurs in specific stages, with balance and coordination issues in the earliest stage.
While there is no cure for vascular dementia, making lifestyle changes that address the main cause is vital. This may include modifying the diet and incorporating more exercise, stopping smoking and refraining from drinking alcohol, and keeping diabetes under control.
Whether dementia, another chronic health issue, or just the normal effects of growing older, Abby Senior Care, a team of dedicated caregivers for the elderly in Denver and the surrounding communities, is here to help seniors live their lives to their utmost potential, with independence, purpose, meaning, and safety. Call us at 303-699-8840 for more information about our award-winning care and to request a complimentary in-home consultation to learn the countless ways we are able to assist you. See our Service Area page for a full list of the communities we serve.