Vascular dementia

We look at the symptoms and treatment of vascular dementia.

Vascular dementia is the second most common form of dementia, accounting for more than 20 per cent of all dementia cases.

What is vascular dementia?

Vascular dementia happens when small blood vessels in the brain become blocked. These blockages prevent blood containing oxygen from reaching the nearby brain cells, causing them to die. 

What are the symptoms of vascular dementia?

Vascular dementia can usually be identified by a sudden change in a person’s behaviour, speech or functioning. The exact change will depend on the area of the brain that is damaged. 

As more of the brain becomes damaged, a person’s memory, language and thinking will continue to decline. 
Elderly couple

How is vascular dementia diagnosed? 

There is no single test to diagnose vascular dementia. Your doctor will look at your loved one’s medical history and carry out a number of tests, such as checking blood pressure, cholesterol and sugar levels, to see if the vascular dementia symptoms could be caused by another condition. 
If they are concerned that your loved one may have vascular dementia after their initial tests, they may refer them to a specialist (neurologist, geriatrician or psychiatrist). The specialist may carry out:
  • A computed tomography (CT) scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan to look at your loved one’s brain for visible damage that could have been caused by strokes or damaged blood vessels. 
  • Cognitive tests to measure memory, language and concentration.
If a diagnosis of vascular dementia is returned, it can be hard to know where to go for more information and support. The Bupa Aged Care Support Line connects you with a health professional who can give you tips for looking after a loved one, support services and care options.

Bupa aged care support line

How is vascular dementia treated?

Vascular dementia can be treated with therapies and medications designed to reduce the risk of further strokes in the brain. However, there is no cure for the condition and no way to reverse the existing damage. 

To reduce the risk of further damage, it is also important to make healthy lifestyle changes. These include:
  • Eating healthily.
  • Losing weight.
  • Quitting smoking.
  • Being more physically active.
  • Cutting down on alcohol.
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