Cognitive decline related to stroke and loss of blood supply to the brain is often called vascular dementia. This condition is also referred to as multi-infarct dementia or vascular cognitive impairment. In the United States, it is the second most common form of dementia after Alzheimer's disease. Some reports estimate that 25% of individuals who experience a stroke develop new onset dementia within one year.
Signs and Symptoms
Cognitive symptoms may appear abruptly, over weeks or months in a stepwise manner, or even gradually over years. The appearance of symptoms varies by the type of stroke and the part of the brain affected. The following are common symptoms of vascular dementia:
- Memory loss, especially recent events
- Inattention, poor concentration, difficulty following instructions
- Difficulty planning and organizing tasks
- Confusion and apathy
- Wandering, getting lost in familiar surroundings
- Poor judgment
- Difficulties with calculations, reasoning, or problem solving
- Agitation, aggression, hallucinations, delusions, or loss of contact with reality
- Mood and behavior changes
- Laughing or crying inappropriately
Physical symptoms include:
- Movement and gait changes
- Verbal fluency decline
- Swallowing difficulties.
Drug therapies in vascular dementia include those that prevent clotting and treat underlying vascular risk factors. Drug therapies may also treat associated symptoms like depression. Some healthcare providers may recommend the treatment currently available for Alzheimer’s disease.
- Antiplatelet agents—Medications that inhibit blood clotting.
- Antihypertensive agents: These drugs reduce blood pressure.
- Other agents may be given to treat additional risk factors for stroke (for example, high cholesterol, heart disease, and diabetes).
In many cases, vascular dementia is preventable. A stroke that blocks a brain artery or damaged brain blood vessels may lead to vascular dementia. Risk factors for stroke and vascular dementia include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart
disease, smoking, and diabetes. For many people, risk can be reduced by adopting a healthy lifestyle. People who have had a stroke may be able to reduce their risk of further strokes by drug treatment or surgery in addition to adopting a healthy lifestyle.
If You’re Concerned...
- Contact Alzheimer’s Tennessee for further information and a referral to an assessment clinic.
- Not all memory problems are related to dementia. An assessment by a team of healthcare professionals will help to rule out other health issues.
- Obtaining an accurate medical diagnosis will help determine your individual treatment and planning goals.
- Early diagnosis is very important. Medications currently available are most effective early in the disease process.
A good support system is important for both the individual with Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers. Contact Alzheimer’s Tennessee for assistance. We can connect you with the following resources: