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Signs You're Getting the "Most Painful" Dementia

Don't overlook these physical signals in yourself or a loved one.

Dementia isn't a condition we usually associate with pain. But according to a study published last year in the journal Pain Reports, more than half of people with dementia experience daily pain, and vascular dementia, in particular, seems to be more painful than other types of dementia, such as Alzheimer's disease. Because dementia can impair a person's ability to communicate, it's important for family members and loved ones to recognize the early symptoms of dementia, so treatment can begin promptly, including pain management if necessary. Read on to find out more, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You Have "Long" COVID and May Not Even Know It.


What Is Vascular Dementia?

Doctor examines MRI scan of head, neck and brain of patient

Dementia is the umbrella term for several disorders of the brain, including Alzheimer's disease, the most common. These disorders involve changes to memory, thinking, personality, and judgment that interfere with a person's day-to-day ability to function. 

Vascular dementia occurs because of impaired blood flow to the brain. It may or may not be caused by a stroke. Its symptoms may be most clear-cut soon after a stroke or mini-stroke.

According to the Mayo Clinic, early symptoms of vascular dementia can overlap with other types of dementia, including Alzheimer's disease. Read on to learn some of those early signals.



Portrait of a worried mature woman having problems with her finances

A person with vascular dementia may have trouble organizing their thoughts or actions. They may become lost in familiar places, like their own neighborhood or a frequently driven route. They may forget how they got there and how to get back home.


Difficulty With Complex Thinking

Woiman sitting at the table worrying about the money.

A person with vascular dementia may experience a "decline in ability to analyze a situation, develop an effective plan and communicate that plan to others," says the Mayo Clinic. This is a common symptom of dementia—a person with any type of dementia may have difficulty with complex tasks such as balancing a checkbook or cooking a familiar recipe. They may avoid these activities and leave them to others.


Trouble Concentrating

Elderly couple arguing.

A change in attention level or a decreased ability to concentrate can be a symptom of vascular dementia. People with dementia may have difficulty focusing or may become distracted more easily. Doctors say it's unlikely that an aging adult would have a new diagnosis of attention deficit disorder (ADD).


Memory Loss

Senior Woman Suffering from Insomnia.

Someone with dementia may have trouble remembering recent events, names and places and where they left certain objects. This kind of forgetfulness is more severe or frequent than that experienced with normal aging. For example: It's normal to occasionally forget where your keys are, but when you have trouble retracing your steps to find them, it could be a sign of dementia.


Coordination Problems

Elderly stroke, Asian older woman suffer fall.

Vascular dementia may cause an affected person to have an unsteady gait, or to have trouble maintaining their coordination. According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, that can include having difficulty with balance or judging distance, tripping over things, or spilling or dropping items more often.


How to Prevent Vascular Dementia

Older woman in kitchen

The best way to prevent vascular dementia—in fact, any type of dementia—is to reduce your risk of stroke, cardiovascular disease, or other conditions that can impair brain health. That includes:

  • Eating a healthy diet, rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole foods and low in saturated fat, processed food, and fast food
  • Getting regular exercise. Experts recommend 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity a week.
  • Keeping your blood pressure and cholesterol levels in a healthy range
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Avoiding tobacco
  • Preventing or controlling type 2 diabetes

And to get through life at your healthiest, don't miss these 13 Everyday Habits That Are Secretly Killing You.

Michael Martin
Michael Martin is a New York City-based writer and editor whose health and lifestyle content has also been published on Beachbody and Openfit. A contributing writer for Eat This, Not That!, he has also been published in New York, Architectural Digest, Interview, and many others. Read more