Understanding and Preventing Vascular Dementia
Vascular dementia is the second foremost cause of dementia with Alzheimer’s disease being the first. Marked by a rapid decline in memory and a loss of certain cognitive functions, the most frequent form of this illness is multi-infarct dementia, which is caused by a series of minor strokes. In fact, research indicates that multi-infarct dementia may actually cause or even worsen the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.
Unlike Alzheimer’s, the effects of vascular dementia can be rapid with sharp changes in a person’s cognitive abilities and behaviors. Also unlike Alzheimer’s, early changes in one’s lifestyle can prevent vascular dementia or even lessen its impact on an individual once a dementia prognosis has been made.
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Vascular dementia is caused by a disturbance in the blood’s flow to the brain, which results in the death of blood cells. This process deprives the brain of oxygen crucial to its proper functioning.
Vascular dementia symptoms include:
- Misplacing items
- Difficulty following instructions (or a complete inability to do so)
- Difficulty concentrating
- Slurred speech
- Poor bladder and bowel control
- Weakness in the limbs
- Difficulty performing everyday tasks
A seemingly healthy individual may suddenly begin to display one or more of these symptoms after a stroke. Sometimes, because strokes can be small, multi-infarct dementia symptoms such as dizziness, forgetfulness and poor concentration are often not taken too seriously. In ignoring these symptoms, a person may not know that minor strokes have caused the impairments and, in time, unrestrained damage is done to the brain. It’s important that anyone experiencing multi-infarct dementia symptoms seek the attention of a medical professional to assess whether or not these issues are being caused by dementia symptoms or by other issues such as depression, malnutrition, a head injury, or a viral infection.
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A multi-infarct dementia prognosis generally leads to Alzheimer’s disease and, although Alzheimer’s disease is more prevalent among senior populations, multi-infarct dementia can and does affect younger populations as smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol can contribute to strokes at any age.
Being informed of a vascular dementia prognosis can be a frightening experience and, currently, there are no drugs to treat this illness. Doctors often prescribe medications to vascular dementia patients to help control high blood pressure and regulate blood sugar levels or they may even recommend surgery to repair damaged arteries and in an effort to restore the flow of blood to the brain. Speech therapy or occupational therapy is also often recommended in treating vascular dementia symptoms. Drugs used to treat the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease have been effective in some with multi-infarct dementia. However, side effects, including death, have been associated with drugs, like Donepezil, that are used in treating Alzheimer’s. It is of vital importance that those helping a person with vascular dementia symptoms also assist in researching the effects and interactions of prescribed medications.
It is also imperative that persons with a vascular dementia diagnosis do the following:
- Exercise the brain as much as possible by engaging in activities that stimulate the memory. Such activities may include routinely toning down environmental distractions and sitting quietly while working to recall recent memories.
- Tune out distractions when listening to instructions.
- Regularly update a personal notepad with tasks that need to be completed and important dates that need to be remembered. Keeping a personal notepad handy and updating it frequently helps a person coping with vascular dementia symptoms alleviate some of the stress associated with forgetfulness as additional stress only further prohibits their recall capabilities.
People with vascular dementia should also:
- Get regular physical exercise
- Control weight gain
- Abstain from alcohol
- Consume a low sodium diet
- Avoid saturated fats
- Avoid fast-foods and processed foods
- Eat a balanced, healthy diet that includes fresh fruits and vegetables
The onset of vascular dementia symptoms are 9 times more likely to occur after a stroke. To prevent vascular dementia, taking steps to prevent a stroke is an important first defense. At any age, a stroke can be cause by:
- Inadequate exercise
- Poor diet
- High cholesterol
- Heart disease
- Cigarette smoking
Remember, that some minor strokes go unrecognized and it is generally these types of strokes that cause multi-infarct dementia.
It’s also important to realize how the mind, body, and the spirit relate to one another. Having an imbalance in one or more of these areas leaves one vulnerable to a variety of attacks by various diseases and illness. Anyone truly interested in preventing vascular dementia symptoms and experiencing better health, in general, is strongly encouraged to explore healthy living and make holistic health practices a permanent choice.
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