There’s plenty of confusion regarding Vascular Dementia and Alzheimer’s. How do they differ, how are they similar? By having one form of dementia, does that mean that your symptoms will be more severe? It’s important to understand how each form of dementia affects those who have been diagnosed so that you can take the correct preventative measures or try to manage symptoms that have already developed.
Alzheimer’s Isn’t the Same As Vascular Dementia
When comparing both vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s, there are clear differences. Alzheimer’s is more common than vascular dementia, with approximately 5.3 million Americans suffering from this disease today. With that being said, it’s believed that approximately 20 percent of those who suffer from dementia display symptoms of vascular dementia.
Although Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, vascular dementia may be under-diagnosed. In fact, many individuals suffer from both forms dementia, displaying symptoms of both vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s. It’s said that suffering from Alzheimer’s and having strokes is actually more common than having either of these conditions on their own.
So, How Do These Two Causes of Dementia Differ?
First of all, the ways in which individuals suffer brain damage differs in terms of Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia. In cases regarding Alzheimer’s, neurons die due to clumps of sticky proteins. The exact cause of these proteins isn’t fully understood, but they’re a clear hallmark of this disease. Both genetics and environmental factors are believed to play a role.
In comparison, vascular dementia is caused when individuals suffer from impaired blood flow. The most common cause of this impairment is due to having a stroke or suffering from chronic hypertension. Since cardiovascular health is such a large factor, conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol all increase one’s risk.
In the human brain there’s both white and gray matter. For those with Alzheimer’s, gray matter is more largely affected, while white matter tends to be targeted within vascular dementia. Based on this distinction, both types of dementia result in cognitive impairments, however, vascular dementia can also influence movement.
As each condition progresses, there’s also some key differences. Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease that tends to worsen in a gradual fashion. The rate differs, depending on individual factors. With vascular dementia, it tends to progress more in a step-like fashion. This means that there are periods between symptoms which offer greater stability.
Preventative Measures Also Differ
It’s tough to truly determine accurate preventative measures for Alzheimer’s since the exact cause is still unknown. In comparison, to protect yourself from vascular dementia, you should take all the same steps as you would when preventing a heart attack or stroke. These means if you’re a smoker, you should quit. Also, reduce your risk significantly by lowering your blood pressure and other common factors associated with heart disease.
Humphries, C. (2014). What’s the Difference Between Vascular Dementia and Alzheimer’s? Boston Globe. Retrieved from https://www.bostonglobe.com/lifestyle/health-wellness/2014/08/24/health-answers-what-difference-between-vascular-dementia-and-alzheimer-disease/4OUx2gRR0sUlwM1zKxuiRK/story.html