Meet the Dementias: Vascular Dementia

People know that years of high blood pressure can cause heart disease. High levels of certain bad cholesterols pose a risk for heart attacks. High blood pressure AND high levels of bad cholesterol create even bigger threats for heart attacks and strokes. Add in years of diabetes, and you have the perfect storm for problems all over the body: strokes, heart attacks, kidney damage, poor blood flow, and even blindness.

These illnesses, if not controlled, create problems with oxygen-rich blood coming to various parts of the body, including the brain. When someone has a stroke, the reason is either a blood vessel blockage (this happens the majority of the time) or a brain bleed from a burst blood vessel. Depending on the part of the brain that is damaged, and the size of the damage, and you may see memory problems plus problems with making and understanding speech.

Vascular dementia can show up after decades of silent damage. Little bits of the brain are cut off from the blood supply and die off. Depending on how much “cognitive reserve” is present, the damage is not noticeable. The person’s memory is fine, he or she is working and productive, life is great. At some point,  however, the damage builds up until the brain can no longer compensate or adjust to the changes. Then, you begin to see signs like short-term memory loss, repeating the same questions over and over again, and trouble finding words.

To make it even more confusing, a person may have both Vascular Dementia and another type of dementia together, such as Alzheimer’s Disease. Some experts believe that the cardiovascular (heart and blood vessel) damage brings on the memory loss from Alzheimer’s Disease (or another dementia) sooner than if the person had never had any cardiovascular disease. For more information about Vascular Dementia, click here.

Many of the behaviors that family and formal caregivers deal with are present regardless of the type of the dementia. While it is good to know what type of dementia you are dealing with, because some medications are better for one dementia over another type of dementia, it does not really matter when you are dealing with behaviors.

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