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Vascular Dementia – Vascular Cognitive Impairment (VCI)

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Vascular Dementia – Vascular Cognitive Impairment (VCI)

Vascular dementia also called vascular cognitive impairment (VCI) is the second most common form of dementia after Alzheimer’s Disease, but it can sometimes be prevented. In some ways they appear similar, but the cause of each one is completely different. Vascular dementia is caused by obstructions and damage to the arteries so that they can no longer carry enough blood to the brain. This can be the result of a stroke or a few mini strokes that cause bleeding and/or blood clots. The longer the blood flow is cut off, the more brain cells die and even after the clot has dissolved or the obstruction opened, the brain may still be damaged from the time the blood flow was cut off. A new drug QNZ-46 may be able to stop the brain damage that comes from bleeding in the brain. Vascular cognitive impairment (VCI) can come on very suddenly, and it can get better as the brain heals, but it also can get worse, especially if the person has another stroke. However, some people have silent strokes that go undiagnosed. It is estimated that 20-30% of people have a silent stroke. Most people who have silent strokes will get another bigger stroke unless they get medical treatment to prevent this.

Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s is caused by sticky plaques and tangles that cause abnormal folding in the brain that leads to the destruction of brain cells. Alzheimer’s comes on gradually and there is progressive cognitive decline. There is no cure today for Alzheimer’s and it only gets progressively worse until the person dies. There is a race among researchers and scientists to find a cure for Alzheimer’s and hopefully, a breakthrough will soon be found.

Mixed Dementia

Some dementia patients were found by autopsy to have both vascular and Alzheimer’s. It is estimated based on autopsies that up to 45% of people have mixed dementia.

Common Characteristics of VCI and Alzheimer’s

  • Unable to reason
  • Find problem solving very difficult
  • Memory loss
  • Hard to make decisions
  • Difficult to make plans
  • Confusion

Risk Factors for Vascular Dementia

  • Aging
  • Stress and Anxiety

Many seniors face more economic hardship and financial problems than do younger people who are employed at a job. Also, seniors face stress over medical problems.

  • Family history of strokes
  • Arteriosclerosis (Hardening of the Arteries)
  • Strokes and silent strokes
  • Bleeding in the Brain – Hemorrhagic Strokes

Some medications can cause bleeding as a side-effect. In fact some of the meds to prevent blood clots in the brain that could lead to an ischemic stroke can sometimes instead cause bleeding in the brain – Intracerebral hemorrhage (ICH). Statins, for instance, are believed to prevent ischemic strokes from blood clots, but they are associated with an increase in hemorrhagic strokes (bleeding in the brain). Aspirin and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) can also cause bleeding.

  • High blood pressure can cause arteries to burst causing bleeding in the brain.
  • Sleep Disorders
  • Depression

Depression seems to increase chance for vascular dementia.

  • Grief

Losing a lifelong spouse seems to increase the risk for strokes that can lead to VCI.

  • Smoking

Nicotine raises blood pressure by constricting (narrowing the arteries) and this is a very high risk for strokes and vascular dementia.

  • Diabetes
  • High cholesterol

Lifestyle Changes

At the present there is no way to reverse the brain damage that leads to VCI. However, lifestyle changes may help to prevent further strokes.

  • Quit Smoking
  • Eat a healthy diet with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables and more fish and less red meat like the Mediterranean Diet.
  • Stress: Find a way to let go of stress.
  • Make sure you get enough fresh water to drink. If you get dehydrated your blood pressure will go up. In very hot weather, if you are outdoors, you may need to eat salty foods, high potassium fruits like orange or lemon juice and drink a lot of water to avoid getting dehydrated. Otherwise, go easy on the salt, as too much salt can also raise blood pressure.
  • Lose weight if you are overweight.
  • Get plenty of exercise.
  • Make sure your blood pressure is under control.
  • Don’t drink alcoholic beverages.
  • Don’t drink coffee. The caffeine in coffee raises blood pressure and increases the heartbeat.
  • Get diabetes under control.


Vascular Dementia can be prevented by the right lifestyle like not smoking, getting enough exercise, eating a good diet and more. The damage caused by bleeding in the brain cannot be undone, but lifestyle changes can sometimes help to avert more strokes.

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