Signs You Have "Vascular Dementia"
Vascular dementia is the second most common type of dementia after Alzheimer's disease, and is caused by a lack of blood flow to the brain (such as from a stroke). "About 15% to 20% of dementia cases in older adults are vascular dementia," says Dr. Anand Viswanathan, associate professor of neurology at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital. "However, the brain damage is often so small and subtle that most people don't notice it." Here are five warning signs of vascular dementia you should be aware of, according to experts. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.
Memory issues are one of the most common symptoms of vascular dementia. "Vascular dementia can cause different symptoms depending on where the blood vessels are damaged in the brain," says the UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences. "For example, a person who had a stroke may have sudden problems with memory, balance, or speech. However, a person can have several strokes that may be unnoticeably small, but the damage can add up over time. Many people with vascular dementia have trouble with memory."
Slurred speech could be a sign of vascular dementia after several strokes, experts say. "The brain damage is often so small and so subtle that it goes unnoticed," says Harvard Health. "The mental deterioration proceeds in a stepwise pattern, in which a person experiences some cognitive decline, stabilizes, then gets worse after another undetected stroke. Vascular dementia can also develop after a person has a major stroke. This may cause an abrupt mental change, sometimes accompanied by paralysis or slurred speech."
Apathy and Concentration Issues
Having unusual trouble with puzzles or tasks could be a sign of dementia, experts say. "Apathy or a lack of initiative about tasks that used to be routine, though now feel overwhelming," says UCSF Health. "For example, the person who always enjoyed puzzles but no longer does them because they are too overwhelming and require skills he/she no longer possesses."
Mood Swings and Personality Changes
"It is common for someone with early vascular dementia to experience mood changes, such as apathy, depression or anxiety," says the Alzheimer's Society U.K. "Depression is common, partly because people with vascular dementia may be aware of the difficulties the condition is causing. A person with vascular dementia may also become generally more emotional. They may be prone to rapid mood swings and being unusually tearful or happy."
How Can Vascular Dementia Be Prevented?
"Lower your risk of vascular dementia by managing blood pressure, maintain a healthy weight, watch your cholesterol, and stay active. "What is good for the heart tends to also be good for the brain," says Dr. Viswanathan. "Since the risk factors for vascular dementia are heart-related, adopting many heart-healthy habits like losing weight and not smoking may offer the best protection."