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What Is Vascular Dementia?

Vascular dementia is a general term describing a group of conditions that cause a decline in cognitive skills. Vascular dementia occurs when vessels that supply blood to the brain become blocked or narrowed. Strokes take place when the supply of blood carrying oxygen to the brain is suddenly cut off. However not all people with stroke will develop vascular dementia. Vascular dementia can occur over time as 'silent' strokes occur and early symptoms can depend on what part of the brain is affected and to what extent.

The symptoms of vascular dementia are often mild for a long time and can include:

  • Problems with short term memory
  • Trouble with attention and concentration
  • Difficulties in organising thoughts, analysing a situation and deciding what to do
  • Restlessness and agitation
  • Being unsteady on your feet
  • Depression
  • Wandering or getting lost in familiar surroundings
  • Laughing or crying at inappropriate times
  • Trouble managing money
  • Inability to follow instructions
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control
  • Hallucinations or delusions

There is no specific test for vascular dementia and it can be difficult to distinguish from other types of dementia. It is diagnosed by a specialist neurologist, geriatrician or psychiatrist, who will look at a person's history of heart disorders, strokes and other cardivascular problems. Diagnosis will involve a physical examination and brian imaging such as CT scan and MRI scan.

Although it is not possible to reverse any existing damage, it is important to prevent future strokes. This may involve medication to control high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease and/or diabetes. Surger may be necessary to remove any artery blockages. Medication can also be used to treat symptoms such as depression, restlessness and insomnia.


  • To reduce the risk of vascular dementia it is important to take steps to prevent heart disease and strokes including:
  • Keep your blood pressure healthy
  • Look after your cholesterol
  • Prevent or control diabetes
  • Quit smoking
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Exercise regularly

Dementia Australia
National Dementia Helpline (1800 100 500)
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