With more than 5.8 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s, most people are familiar with the signs and symptoms of this form of dementia. However, there’s another, lesser known form of dementia that causes cognitive issues in seniors: vascular dementia. Understanding the symptoms and risk factors, along with the unique attributes that make it different from Alzheimer’s, is crucial to obtaining the correct diagnosis and treatment.

Who’s at Risk for Vascular Dementia?

In contrast to Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia is brought on by a lack of 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 result in some degree of dementia. So, anyone at an increased risk for stroke is also at an increased risk for vascular dementia.

Other risk factors include:

  • Age: risk goes up after the age of 65
  • Gender: males are at a more increased risk than females
  • Elevated blood pressure and/or cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease or heart attack
  • Blood vessel disease
  • Hardened arteries
  • An abnormal heartbeat
  • Lifestyle choices, like tobacco use and excessive drinking

Vascular Dementia Symptoms

Symptoms may come on all of a sudden following a significant stroke, or more gradually following a mini-stroke or TIA. In general, these warning signs often come in conjunction with vascular dementia:

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

Is It Alzheimer’s or Vascular Dementia?

There are several key differences when comparing the two:

  • What causes Alzheimer’s disease is unknown. It usually progresses gradually, with balance and coordination problems occurring in the later stages of the disease.
  • Vascular dementia is brought on 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 occurs in specific stages, with balance and coordination problems in the earliest stage.

Treatment Plans

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

Whether dementia, another chronic medical condition, or just the normal effects of growing older, At-Home Care Company, a compassionate team of senior helpers in Des Moines, IA and the surrounding communities, is here to help seniors live their lives to the fullest —  with purpose, meaning, independence, and safety. Email or give us a call at (515) 292-2650 for more information and to request a complimentary in-home consultation to discover the numerous ways we can assist you. Visit our Service Area page for a full list of the cities we serve.