What is vascular dementia?

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Christina’s mum Hazel had vascular dementia

By Christina Macdonald

Vascular dementia is caused by a stroke or series of mini-strokes that affects blood supply to the brain.

It may be less likely to be genetic than some other forms of dementia, though more research in this area is needed. Studies show conflicting results. Your lifestyle choices may reduce your risk of developing this form of dementia. Exercise is considered particularly beneficial for reducing your risk.

Vascular dementia is the second most common type of dementia. According to Alzheimer’s Society it affects around 150,000 people in the UK. The disease is caused by a reduced blood flow to the brain that can be caused by a series of mini-strokes, or by small blood vessels deep in the brain becoming narrowed and hardened. This is known as atherosclerosis. Vascular dementia is more common in smokers, those with high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, obesity or heart problems. Age is also a strong risk factor.

Symptoms include confusion, problems with concentration, hallucinations, slower thought patterns, memory loss, language problems, depression, anxiety and rapid changes in mood. A person with vascular dementia can struggle to complete tasks and it may be advisable to break tasks down into small chunks or stages. My mother had vascular dementia and I noticed she struggled to complete tasks that many people would take for granted. The condition also seemed to affect her ability to make decisions. She began seeking my opinion more and more frequently. Before her diagnosis, she had been assertive and perfectly capable of making decisions on her own. I also noticed her mood swings became frequent and unpredictable. She could become angry at a moment’s notice. At first I didn’t realise her mood swings and apparent lack of confidence in her own judgement was connected to her dementia, but once I did realise, things began to make more sense. And I was better placed to cope with her moods as I realised they weren’t her fault.

A person diagnosed with vascular dementia on average is expected to live for around five years after diagnosis according to Alzheimer’s Society, although my mum was diagnosed in 2009 and lived for seven years after her diagnosis.

 

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