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Vascular dementia is the second-most diagnosed form of dementia after Alzheimer’s. It’s often diagnosed after a stroke, as cognitive function is impaired due to inadequate blood flow in the brain. Strokes affect the blood vessels in the brain to varying degrees, so many of the symptoms associated with vascular dementia range from mild to severe. For this reason, experts also refer to this form of dementia as “vascular cognitive impairment.”
If you believe that your loved one may have undiagnosed vascular dementia, there are signs and symptoms to look for to help with an eventual diagnosis. Vascular dementia symptoms vary greatly, depending on the severity of the damage to the blood vessels in the brain. The symptoms can sometimes go unnoticed if the stroke is mild, but typical signs of post-stroke brain changes include:
The symptoms tend to be most prominent after experiencing a major stroke. More severe and noticeable symptoms include:
Due to the fact that vascular dementia and stroke often go hand-in-hand, it might go undiagnosed after a stroke. If your loved one has experienced a stroke, most experts recommend professional screenings in order to determine a proper diagnosis. These screenings typically include tests that assess memory, thinking, and reasoning skills.
In addition to screening for cognitive changes, the physician attending to your loved one will also:
Similar to Alzheimer’s, vascular dementia is often associated with old age. Unlike Alzheimer’s, however, the risk factors are also closely related to the risk factors for cardiovascular disease, and include:
While many of these risk factors cannot be changed, there are certain lifestyle changes you can implement in order to reduce the likelihood of developing vascular dementia, including:
There are currently no FDA-approved drugs to keep vascular dementia at bay, so it is recommended that you work closely with your physician to help prevent onset and postpone any further decline.
To learn more about vascular dementia, check out some of these resources:
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