The newsletter of the Memory Disorders Project at Rutgers University

What is Vascular Dementia

Vascular dementia refers to dementia that is caused by cerebrovascular disease (i.e., damage to the body's heart, lungs and/or blood vessels). It may be caused by a single stroke or aneurysm or by a series of smaller strokes or aneurysms (multi-infarct dementia).

Vascular dementia is the second most common form of dementia, after Alzheimer's disease. It is different from Alzheimer's in that symptoms may arise suddenly (e.g., after a stroke), whereas Alzheimer's tends to develop slowly, over years.

Vascular dementia symptoms

Vascular dementia symptoms may include confusion and recent memory problems, but also getting lost in familiar places, trouble with incontinence, difficulty handling money, and emotional problems such as inappropriate laughing or crying.

The most important risk factor for vascular dementia is high blood pressure (which increases risk for strokes overall). It is rare for someone without high blood pressure to develop vascular dementia.

While damage from previous strokes cannot be reversed, the individual can be treated to reduce the risk of further strokes.

Most of the risk factors (high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol) can all be controlled with proper diet, good health habits, and medication. Doctors also sometimes prescribe aspirin, which helps thin the blood and prevent clots that may cause further strokes.

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by Catherine E. Myers. Copyright © 2006 Memory Loss and the Brain