The term ‘dementia’ is used to describe a set of symptoms that occur when the brain is damaged by specific diseases. These diseases include Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia. Vascular dementia is the second most common form of dementia and it is caused by problems in the supply of blood to the brain.
Vascular dementia affects everyone differently and the speed of progression varies from person to person. Typically, symptoms of vascular dementia begin suddenly, for example after a stroke. It then often follows with a ‘stepped’ progression, with symptoms remaining at a constant level for a time and then suddenly deteriorating. People with vascular dementia may experience:
- Problems with speed of thinking, communication and concentration
- Depression or anxiety
- Symptoms of a stroke, such as physical weakness of paralysis
- Memory problems
- Periods of severe confusion
Vascular dementia can occur through a lack of good supply of blood. Blood is delivered through a network of blood vessels called the vascular system. If the vascular system becomes damaged and blood cannot reach the brain cells, the cells will eventually die leading to the onset of vascular dementia.
A number of conditions can cause or increase damage to the vascular system including:
- High blood pressure
- Heart problems
- High cholesterol
Although brain damage that causes vascular dementia cannot be reversed, it may be possible to slow the progression down in a number of ways. These include:
- Taking medication to treat underlying conditions
- Adopting a healthier lifestyle by stopping smoking, regular exercise, eating healthily and drinking alcohol in moderation
- Receiving rehabilitative support such as physiotherapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy, to help the person maximise their opportunities to regain their lost functions
For further information on vascular dementia please visit the Alzheimer’s Society website who is the UK’s leading support and research charity for people with dementia, their families and carers www.alzheimers.org.uk.