Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia in the United States, impacting an estimated 5.8 million people. However, there is another, lesser-known type of dementia causing cognitive issues in seniors: vascular dementia. Understanding the symptoms and risk factors, together with the unique attributes that set it apart from Alzheimer’s, is essential to obtaining a proper diagnosis and treatment.

Who’s at Risk for Vascular Dementia?

Unlike 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). The truth is, as many as 25 – 33% of strokes cause some degree of dementia. So anyone at an elevated risk for stroke is also at risk for vascular dementia.

Other risk factors include:

  • Age: risk increases after a person reaches 65
  • Gender: males tend to be at higher risk than females
  • High blood pressure and/or cholesterol levels
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease or heart attack
  • Blood vessel disease
  • Hardened arteries
  • An abnormal heart rhythm
  • Lifestyle choices, such as tobacco use and alcohol consumption

Vascular Dementia Signs and Symptoms

Symptoms can come on unexpectedly following a significant stroke, or little by little after a mini-stroke or TIA. In general, these warning signs often come in conjunction with vascular dementia:

  • Short-term memory decline
  • Trouble with completing, planning, or concentrating on tasks and activities
  • Difficulties with managing finances
  • Confusion with following instructions
  • Wandering and becoming lost in places that were previously familiar
  • Incontinence
  • Inappropriate laughing or crying
  • Hallucinations or delusions

Is It Vascular Dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease?

There are several key differences between the two:

  • The cause of Alzheimer’s disease is as yet not known. It usually progresses slowly and steadily, with balance and coordination issues occurring within the later stages of the disease.
  • Vascular dementia is caused by a stroke or TIA, and it is associated with other vascular problems (for instance, unhealthy blood pressure/cholesterol levels). The progression of this kind of dementia happens in distinct phases, with balance and coordination issues in the initial stage.

Treatment Plans

While there is no cure for vascular dementia, making lifestyle changes that address the main cause is a must. This can include modifying eating habits and increasing exercise, giving up smoking and refraining from drinking alcohol, and keeping diabetes under control.

Whether a type of dementia, another chronic health condition, or just the normal effects of aging, Hearts at Home In-Home Care, one of the best home health agencies in Kansas City, KS and the surrounding areas, is here to help seniors live their lives to their fullest potential, with meaning, independence, purpose, and safety. Email or call us at 913-440-4209 to find out more and to request a no-cost in-home consultation to discover the many ways we can help. For a full list of the communities we serve, visit our Service Area page.