Vascular dementia (VD) is when the brain doesn't get enough oxygen. This damages brain cells.
Healthy and Injured Brain Blood Vessels
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VD happens when brain cells die because they do not get enough oxygen. This is due to narrowing or blocking of the vessels that carry blood to the brain.
VD is more common in older adults. It is also more common in people who have one or more of these risk factors:
Problems vary from person to person. It depends on the part of the brain that is affected.
A person may have:
- Changes in memory, thinking, or acting that may get in the way of daily activities
- Problems controlling urine
- Problems walking
- Mood changes
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. Test may also be done to assess thinking abilities.
Blood tests may be done. It can rule out other health problems that may cause dementia.
Pictures may be taken of your brain and body structures. This can be done with:
There is no cure for VD. The goal is to slow VD and improve quality of life.
Medicine may be given to improve thinking and function. Dietary supplements may also be used.
Underlying health problems will also need to be treated, such as:
To lower the risk of VD:
- Avoid using tobacco.
- Limit alcohol.
- Manage health problems, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes.
- Maintain a healthy weight through diet and exercise.
Sabayan B, Sorond FA. Reducing risk of dementia in older age. JAMA. 2017;317(19):2028.
Sorond FA, Whitehead S, et al. Proceedings from the Albert Charitable Trust Inaugural Workshop on white matter and cognition in aging. Geroscience. 2020;42(1):81-96.
Vascular cognitive impairment. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/vascular-cognitive-impairment. Accessed October 5, 2020.
Vascular dementia. Alzheimer's Association website. Available at: http://www.alz.org/dementia/vascular-dementia-symptoms.asp. Accessed October 5, 2020.
Vascular dementia: A resource list. National Institute on Aging website. Available at: https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/vascular-dementia-and-vascular-cognitive-impairment-resource-list. Accessed October 5, 2020.
Last reviewed September 2020 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
Rimas Lukas, MD
Last Updated: 5/25/2021