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Vascular Dementia

Who Is at Risk for Vascular Dementia?

Some risk factors for vascular dementia can be managed; others, like age and gender, cannot. Among all factors, high blood pressure carries the greatest risk; vascular dementia almost never occurs without it.

Likewise, a high risk of stroke goes hand in hand with risk for vascular dementia. One-quarter to one-third of strokes are thought to result in some degree of dementia. People who smoke, consume excessive amounts of alcohol, have diabetes, or heart disease also have a higher rate of the condition.

Vascular dementia most commonly occurs in people between the ages of 60 and 75. Men seem to be more vulnerable than women, and the condition affects African-Americans more often than other races. People whose age, sex, or race puts them at increased risk of vascular dementia have that much more reason to manage risk factors within their control. 

Vascular Dementia Treatment

Currently, no available treatments can repair the damage of vascular dementia once it's happened. Nonetheless, diagnosis provides important knowledge and the opportunity to prevent further damage.

Prevention typically involves bringing high blood pressure under control through exercise, diet, and medication. The same goes for diabetes if it exists. Patients should stop smoking and curb the use of alcohol.  

Though medical options are limited, behavioral interventions such as cues and reminders can improve the quality of life for everyone involved. Family members and friends can place notes in visible locations around the house with daily plans and instructions for how to use basic items. Stepping up communication, reminding the person with vascular dementia what day it is, where they live, and what is going on in the family, can help keep them connected to the here and now.

Prognosis for People With Vascular Dementia

If the conditions that cause vascular dementia go untreated, the prognosis is not good. A person with vascular dementia may seem to improve for periods of time until another stroke takes away more brain function, memory, and independence. Eventually, untreated vascular dementia usually ends in death from stroke, heart disease, or infection.

Although vascular dementia is a serious condition, catching it early and preventing further damage are the best medicine. People with vascular dementia can work with their doctors and families to detect and manage the condition.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Richard Senelick, MD on August 26, 2012

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