By Susan Griffi September 2015, 17:37 BST stanfieldnursing.co.uk
The word dementia describes a set of symptoms that can include memory loss and difficulties with thinking, problem-solving or language. In vascular dementia, these symptoms occur “when there is a reduced blood supply to the brain due to diseased blood vessels,” explains Kathryn Smith, director of operations at Alzheimer’s Society.
To be healthy and function properly, brain cells need a constant supply of blood, which is delivered through a network of vessels called the vascular system. If the blood vessels leak or become blocked, then blood can’t reach the brain cells and they’ll eventually die. It’s the death of brain cells which causes problems with memory, thinking or reasoning (collectively known as cognition). When these cognitive problems are bad enough to have a significant impact on daily life, it’s known as vascular dementia.
Who gets vascular dementia? There are a number of factors that put someone at risk of developing vascular dementia, including:
• Age - The risk of developing the condition doubles approximately every five years over the age of 65.
• History of cardiovascular disease - A person who’s had a stroke, or has diabetes or heart disease, is approximately twice as likely to develop vascular dementia.
• Sleep apnoea - A condition where breathing stops for a few seconds or minutes during sleep is a possible risk factor.
• Depression - According to the Alzheimer’s Society, there is some evidence that a history of depression also increases the risk of vascular dementia.
• Genetic factors - Someone with a family history of stroke, heart disease or diabetes has an increased risk of developing these conditions, although the role of genes in the common types of vascular dementia is small.
• Ethnicity - Those from an Indian, Bangladeshi, Pakistani or Sri Lankan backgrounds living in the UK have significantly higher rates of stroke, diabetes and heart disease than white Europeans. Among people of African-Caribbean descent, the risk of diabetes and stroke – but not heart disease – is also higher