Vascular dementia occurs when blood vessels in the brain have been damaged and are unable to efficiently supply nutrients and oxygen to it. Stroke is a common cause; it can also simply be the result of aging.
Vascular dementia symptoms are similar to other dementia and include a loss of control over emotions, functions, and communications that tend to be sudden rather than gradual. Vascular dementia treatments revolve around treating the underlying causes of a blood vessel damage.
Vascular Dementia Symptoms and Signs Appear Suddenly
Vascular dementia symptoms look a lot like symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease and mimic fairly typical signs aging. The difference is that vascular dementia symptoms arise pretty quickly, while Alzheimer’s and age-related dementia progress much more slowly.
They include sudden problems with short-term memory and concentration. Abrupt onset of unsteadiness, wandering, getting lost, and changes in behavior, particularly restlessness or random laughing or crying may also be seen. Some people lose control of their bowels or bladder, experience hallucinations, or become delusional.
In addition, any sudden escalation of these symptoms can indicate stroke on top of damage already done.
Since we are speaking about the brain, physical vascular dementia symptoms will reflect the side of the brain that’s been harmed. Damage on the right side of the brain affects functioning on the left side and vice-versa.
Lots of patients ask me about right versus left brain influences. This was a popular theory that emerged in the 1970s, but research that’s been conducted since then has largely disproven it. The sides of the brain work together, and more neural connections made, the better they coordinate with one another.
Moreover, there are six major parts of the brain that control different functions. The brain stem, for example, controls basic functions like breathing, swallowing, and reflexive reactions to sight and sound, while the frontal lobe controls high-level functions like understanding abstract concepts and problem-solving.
Here’s a fascinating summary of the different parts of the brain from the Model Systems Knowledge Translation Center, a project that provides specific information for people recovering from the traumatic brain, spinal cord, or burn injuries.
Vascular Dementia Treatments Focus On Controlling the Causes for Dementia
There is no treatment for vascular dementia; rather, we focus on controlling the risks that caused the dementia.
Virtually all vascular dementia patients have high blood pressure, so it’s very important for everyone to pay attention to this key health indicator, particularly as we age—the one symptom we can’t control.
Vascular dementia can be controlled (and prevented) by focusing on behavioral changes. In addition to monitoring blood pressure and taking medication for it as directed, here are other factors physicians and therapists strongly endorse:
- Quit smoking
- Stop or reduce alcohol intake
- If diabetic, step up efforts to manage it and monitor blood sugar
- Eat a heart-healthy diet to reduce high levels of LDL cholesterol and boost HDL
- Begin a monitored exercise plan
Vascular dementia patients will likely need a partner to help them initiate and maintain these behavioral changes. Communication is extremely important for both the patient and supporting partner(s).
Our treatment plans for patients with peripheral artery disease (PAD) includes counseling them and their loved ones about how they can successfully make these behavioral changes. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with PAD, contact us for a consultation about managing and treating it. We also treat varicose veins and spider veins using the latest technologies. Finally, we hope you’ll check our blog that talks about PAD and vein treatments, behaviors that promote healthy veins, and related topics.