When you understand the risks involved with vascular dementia, you can take effective action and help reduce your overall risk. When it comes to brain health, the choices you make today can greatly influence your future health. Considering vascular dementia is caused by reduced blood flow to the brain, there are plenty of potential contributing factors.
The Core Causes of Vascular Dementia
Blood flow to your brain is reliant on proper blood flow and healthy arteries. Based on this process, the narrowing of one’s arteries significantly increases their risk of complications. Plenty of lifestyle factors play a key role in blocking arteries, it’s critical that you care for your heart health.
Risk factors are those that contribute to heart disease and strokes, such as hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol, heart abnormalities, obesity, and smoking. Although there are rare cases in which individual’s suffer from abnormalities in which they were born with, the majority of cases are directly linked to lifestyle factors.
Hypertension is believed to play a critical role in the development of vascular dementia. Researchers believe that approximately half of all vascular dementia causes are directly linked to high blood pressure. This makes sense, as high blood pressure places constant stress on your blood vessels, arteries, and brain. In this cases, high blood pressure often leads to subcortical vascular dementia.
The second major cause of vascular dementia is having a stroke or mini-strokes, which often results in multi-infarct dementia. Since strokes cut-off oxygen to the brain, select areas of the brain are affected and often damaged. This damage is what leads to symptoms of dementia. When you suffer from a stroke, physical symptoms are fairly obvious. When you experience mini-strokes, however, some are unaware that they even occurred. Vascular dementia tends to develop when a stroke affects the left of the brain, targeting the memory center.
Since there are many potential causes of decreased blood flow, numerous other possible causes should also be mentioned. When suffering from select autoimmune diseases, such as lupus, blood flow can be negatively affected. The same is true for brain hemorrhages, heart infections, and any other condition that affectsone’s blood flow.
Reducing Your Risk By Understanding Potential Factors
Just because you or your loved one has had a stroke, does not mean that vascular dementia will follow. It’s believed that approximately 30 percent of those who have a stroke, develop symptoms of dementia within three months. When suffering from a stroke, there are actually certain factors that increase your chances of suffering from vascular dementia post-stroke.
The first is age, as the older you are, the more susceptible you are to symptoms of dementia. In one study, it was found that stroke victims who were 80 years old experienced a 13-fold increased chance that they would develop dementia, in comparison to those who were in their 60s.
With that being said, your mental capacity before a stroke may be more critical than age. Scoring higher on cognitive tests prior to a stroke has been shown to reduce the risk of impairment. On a related note, those who are less educated are at an increased risk of vascular dementia. This is believed to be based on increased education yielding greater cognitive reserve.
When having a stroke, the location within the brain makes a significant difference in terms of your risk for vascular dementia. When the left side of the brain is affected, individuals are at a greater risk of developing dementia. This is especially true when language is significantly affected after having a stroke.
As mentioned, anything relating to positive heart and cardiovascular health can reduce your risk. That means reducing alcohol consumption and not smoking, taking part in regular exercise, reducing processed and fatty foods, managing stress, and controlling blood sugar levels.
Dementia Care. (2015). Causes of Vascular Dementia. Dementia Care Central. Retrieved from http://www.dementiacarecentral.com/aboutdementia/vasculardementia/causes
Life After 50. (2010). Hypertension and Stroke – Risk Factors for Vascular Dementia. Remedy Health Media. Retrieved from http://www.healthafter50.com/reports/hypertension_stroke/3168-1.html