Vascular dementia is a general term describing problems with reasoning, planning, judgment, memory, and other thought processes, caused by brain damage from impaired blood flow to the brain. You can develop vascular dementia after a stroke blocks an artery to your brain, but strokes don’t always cause vascular dementia. It can also result from other conditions that damage blood vessels and reduce circulation, depriving your brain of vital oxygen and nutrients.
Any factor that increases your risk of heart disease and stroke, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking, will also raise your risk of vascular dementia. Controlling these factors will then possibly help lower your chances of developing vascular dementia.
The symptoms of vascular dementia can vary, depending on the part of your brain where the blood flow was impaired. Symptoms often overlap with other types of dementia, especially Alzheimer’s. But unlike Alzheimer’s disease, the most significant symptoms of vascular dementia tend to involve speed of thinking and problem solving, as opposed to memory loss.
Vascular dementia symptoms may be most clear cut when occurring following a stroke. When changes in your thinking and reasoning seem clearly linked to a stroke, this is sometimes called post-stroke dementia. Changes in your thought patterns occur in noticeable steps downward, unlike the steady decline that typically occurs.
But vascular dementia can also develop very gradually, just like Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, the two are frequently found together in patients. Studies often show that many people with dementia and evidence of brain vascular disease will also be suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.