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While there are nearly 5.8 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia, there’s 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 crucial to obtaining a proper diagnosis and treatment.

Who Is Vulnerable to Vascular Dementia?

Unlike Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia is caused by deficiencies in oxygen and the flow of blood to the brain, such as occurs during a stroke or TIA (Transient Ischemic Attack). The truth is, as many as 25 – 33% of strokes result in some degree of dementia. So, anyone at a heightened risk for stroke is also at risk for vascular dementia.

Risk factors also include:

  • Age: risk increases after the age of 65
  • Gender: men tend to be more at risk than women
  • High blood pressure and/or cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Cardiovascular disease or heart attack
  • Blood vessel disease
  • Hardened arteries
  • An irregular heart rhythm
  • Lifestyle choices, including tobacco use and excessive drinking

Vascular Dementia Symptoms

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

  • Short-term memory decline
  • Struggles with completing, planning, or concentrating on projects and activities
  • Difficulties with managing finances
  • Confusion when trying to follow instructions
  • Wandering and getting disoriented in locations 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 when comparing the two:

  • The cause of Alzheimer’s disease is unknown. It usually progresses gradually and continuously, with balance and coordination trouble occurring within the later stages of the disease.
  • Vascular dementia is a result of a stroke or TIA, and it is connected to other vascular problems (such as unhealthy blood pressure/cholesterol levels). The advancement of this form of dementia takes place in distinct stages, with balance and coordination issues in the earliest stage.

Treatment Options

While there is no cure for vascular dementia, making lifestyle changes that address the primary cause is essential. This may include modifying eating habits and incorporating more exercise, giving up smoking and refraining from alcohol consumption, and keeping diabetes under control.

Whether dementia, another chronic health issue, or simply the typical effects of getting older, Absolute Companion Care, a compassionate provider of dementia care in Towson, MD and the surrounding towns, is here to help seniors live their lives to their maximum capabilities, with purpose, meaning, independence, and safety. Call us at 410-357-9640 to learn more about our home care services and to request a free in-home consultation to discover the many ways we are able to assist you. Visit our Service Area page for a list of all the towns and cities we serve.