After Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia is the most common cause of dementia. In fact, 20-30% of all dementia cases are classified as vascular dementia. Vascular dementia occurs due to an inability of the blood to flow properly to the brain and is most often associated with the occurrence of stroke, although it may have other causes.
There is no cure for vascular dementia, nor are there any FDA-approved drugs that specifically target the condition; however, some drugs that are used to treat symptoms of Alzheimer’s are sometimes prescribed to treat symptoms associated with vascular dementia. These include cholinesterase inhibitors and memantine.
What else can be done?
It’s important to try to slow down the progression of vascular dementia as much as possible. This involves keeping a patient’s heart and blood vessels as healthy as possible. With that in mind, here are some steps that you can take to help prevent vascular dementia from accelerating:
- Watch that blood pressure. High blood pressure makes vascular dementia worse, so some patients may need to take medicine to keep blood pressure down; those already on blood pressure medication may need to change their dosage. Beyond medicine, there are lifestyle changes that can help. These include:
- Cutting down on salt intake.
- Including whole grains, fruits, and vegetables in your regular diet.
- Limiting alcohol consumption.
- Avoiding caffeine.
- Stopping smoking and avoiding secondhand smoke.
- Exercising regularly. As always, any changes in diet or exercise routines should be approved by the appropriate physician.
- Keep cholesterol under control. As with blood pressure control, diet plays a big factor. Spinach, beans, soy, oatmeal, fruits, fish, eggplant, okra, lentils, olive oil, and asparagus may be appropriate foods for those trying to lower their cholesterol.
- Stop the clot. Changes in diet can also help to prevent clotting; however, if a person has vascular dementia, medication, such as an anticoagulant, will almost certainly need to be prescribed to diminish the risk of further episodes.
- Avoid excess sugar. Maintaining proper blood sugar levels is important, especially if the patient is diabetic.
Vascular dementia presents significant challenges to caregivers and loved ones. Working to prevent the spread of the disease can be difficult but is important.