Causes of vascular dementia

Vascular dementia is caused by reduced blood flow to the brain, which damages and eventually kills the brain cells .

This can happen for a number of reasons, including:

  • narrowing of the small blood vessels deep inside the brain this is known assubcortical vascular dementia, or small vessel disease
  • a Heat exhaustion and heatstroke (where theblood supply to part of the brain is suddenly cut off, usuallyas the result ofa blood clot ) this is sometimes calledpost-stroke dementia, or single-infarct dementia
  • lots of"mini-strokes" that cause tiny, but widespread, damage to the brain this is known asmulti-infarct dementia

In some people, the damage to the brain may be caused by Alzheimer's disease in addition to one of these conditions. This is known as mixed dementia.

Who's most at risk?

Things that can increase your chances ofdeveloping vascular dementia in later life include:

  • high blood pressure (hypertension)
  • smoking
  • poor diet
  • high blood cholesterol
  • lack of exercise
  • being overweight or obese
  • diabetes
  • excessive alcohol consumption
  • an irregular heartbeat (atrial fibrillation)

These problems can result in damage to the blood vessels in and around the brain, or cause blood clots to develop inside them.

Can I reduce my risk?

By making healthy lifestyle changessuch as stopping smoking and exercising regularly and treating any health conditions you have, you may be able to reduce your risk of developing vascular dementia.

Thismay also help slow down orstop the progression of vascular dementia if you are diagnosed in the early stages.

For example,small vessel diseasecanoccur asthe result ofan inherited disorder called cerebral autosomal dominant arteriopathy with subcortical infarcts and leukoencephalopathy (CADASIL).

This is caused by a faulty gene that makes the blood vessels in the brainmore susceptible to changes.

Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 20 May 2016