Skip to content

Stroke Health Center

Font Size
A
A
A

Stroke-Related Dementia

Stroke (also called a "cerebrovascular accident," or CVA) is a disease of the blood vessels in and around the brain. It occurs when part of the brain does not receive enough blood to function normally (called "ischemia") and the cells die (infarction), or when a blood vessel ruptures (hemorrhagic stroke). Ischemia is more common than hemorrhage and has a number of causes: a vessel (artery) supplying blood to the brain can become blocked by a fatty deposit (plaque), which can form clots and send pieces into vessels further in the brain, or these arteries become thickened or hardened, narrowing the space where the blood flows (atherosclerosis). In addition, clots can arise in the heart (called a "thrombus") and travel to the brain (called an "embolus"). Permanent damage to brain cells can result.

The symptoms of stroke vary, depending on which part of the brain is affected.

Recommended Related to Stroke

Keys to Recognizing a Stroke

Strokes can happen to anyone at any time, regardless of sex or age. Each year, nearly 800,000 people in the U.S. have a stroke, and 130,000 die from one. Of those who survive, more than two-thirds will have some disability. Recognizing stroke symptoms is key to preventing a needless death. “Many patients who have a stroke develop droopiness on one side of the face. And they get weakness in the arm, so in many cases their arm falls to the side and they can’t lift it. If you ask them to smile, it’s...

Read the Keys to Recognizing a Stroke article > >

  • Common symptoms of stroke are sudden paralysis or loss of sensation in part of the body (especially on one side), slurred speech, partial loss of vision or double vision, or loss of balance. Loss of bladder and bowel control can also occur.

  • Other symptoms include decline in "cognitive" mental functions such as memory, speech and language, thinking, organization, reasoning, or judgment.

  • Changes in behavior and personality may occur.

  • If these symptoms are progressive and severe enough to interfere with everyday activities, they are called dementia or "major neurocognitive disorder."

Cognitive decline related to stroke is usually called vascular dementia or vascular cognitive impairment to distinguish it from other types of dementia. In the United States, it is the second most common form of dementia after Alzheimer's disease. Vascular dementia may be preventable, but only if the underlying vascular disease (such as hypertension) is recognized and treated early.

People who have had a stroke have a far greater risk of developing dementia than people who have not had a stroke. About 1 in 4 people who have had a stroke develop signs of dementia within 1 year.

Vascular dementia is most common in older people, who are more likely than younger people to have vascular diseases. It is more common in men than in women.

WebMD Medical Reference from eMedicineHealth

Reviewed by Joseph Goldberg, MD on April 22, 2014

Today on WebMD

brain illustration stroke
Know these 5 signs.
brain scans
Test your stroke smarts.
 
woman with migraine
Is there a link?
brain scan
Get the facts.
 
brain scans
Quiz
woman with migraine
Article
 
brain scan
Article
quit smoking tips
Slideshow
 
senior man stretching pre workout
Article
Floor level view of therapist helping stroke patie
Article
 
concerned woman
Article
Lowering Cholesterol Slideshow
SLIDESHOW