Vascular dementia is a disease of the brain and is the second most common type of dementia after Alzheimer’s. The symptoms of dementia typically affect the elderly, but there are various health conditions that can cause vascular dementia and these are not necessarily confined to older people; in many cases, younger people are also afflicted by the distressing symptoms of vascular dementia. So what is a vascular dementia life expectancy once a patient exhibits symptoms and what causes the disease?
Vascular dementia is caused by a restricted blood supply to the brain. If the vascular system of blood vessels that supply the brain is damaged in some way, brain cells begin to die, which leads to the onset of vascular dementia. Typical causes of vascular dementia include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, and diabetes. All of these serious health conditions affect the vascular system, which makes it imperative that they are treated promptly to reduce the possibility of damage leading to vascular dementia.
The symptoms of vascular dementia are very similar to those in other types of dementia, including Alzheimer’s, although different patients can be affected in different ways. Symptoms of dementia typically include memory problems, episodes of acute confusion, difficulties concentrating and communicating, and depression and withdrawal. However, there are a few symptoms that are fairly specific to vascular dementia and these include:
- Stroke symptoms such as paralysis or weakness
- Epileptic seizures
- A stepped progression whereby symptoms appear to plateau for a while before suddenly deteriorating
Is the vascular dementia life expectancy good?
Vascular dementia can either be caused by a stroke, by small vessel damage in the brain, or by a combination of the two. When a stroke occurs, the blood supply to the brain is interrupted and, as a result, the victim will experience some kind of damage to whichever part of the brain has been affected. This can either be one stroke, or a series of smaller strokes, both of which can cause vascular dementia if particular sections of the brain are affected.
If the strokes are very small, the symptoms might only be temporary and the patient can make a full recovery, but if the damage is severe, or the patient suffers multiple temporary interruptions to the blood supply known as transient ischaemic attacks, the damage can be severe and the vascular dementia life expectancy is not good.
In order to reduce the risk of developing vascular dementia, there are certain risk factors that must be addressed. Anyone with a medical history of heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol, stroke, or sleep apnea, should ensure that these health conditions are being adequately treated. Other known risk factors include smoking, excess alcohol consumption, a fatty diet, or a family history of stroke or vascular dementia.
The damage caused by vascular dementia cannot be reversed, but the effects of the disease can be slowed down in order to enhance the quality of remaining life. Various treatments are available including medication for treating any underlying conditions, rehabilitative therapy, and lifestyle support advice.