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Vascular dementia

Vascular dementia

Everything you need to know about living well with vascular dementia



You may be wondering, what is vascular dementia? Here, we help explain what vascular dementia symptoms are, what causes vascular dementia, the vascular dementia treatments that are available and about living with vascular dementia.

We will explore the process of diagnosis of vascular dementia, healthy living aspects such as vascular dementia diet, and sources of help for vascular dementia.

It is important to remember that whilst a diagnosis of vascular dementia can be worrying, there are millions of people all over the world with a dementia diagnosis. Every person will experience it differently, but you are not alone and there is a lot of support available to you.

If you have any queries or concerns about your condition, or if you think you are experiencing any vascular dementia symptoms, please see your GP. The information in this guide does not replace professional, medical advice.

What is vascular dementia?

Most people have heard of ‘dementia’ or know someone who has it. ‘Dementia’ is an umbrella term for lots of neurological conditions that have similar symptoms, including a decline in cognitive abilities such as memory and thought process. This is caused by damage occurring within the brain, which may have been happening for many years before diagnosis. Around 850,000 people in the UK have some form of dementia.

Vascular dementia is one of many types of dementia and is the second most common type in the UK, affecting around 150,000 people. Many people live well with vascular dementia and can have a good quality of life, living independently. There is no cure, but there are ways to slow down the progression of the disease.

Older people, aged 65 or over, are more likely to get vascular dementia due to changes in the brain that happen over time but some people do experience it at an earlier age.

To find out more about vascular dementia, please visit the NHS website.

What causes vascular dementia?

Vascular dementia is caused by reduced blood supply to the brain. In the human body, nerve cells need oxygen in order to function. If they do not get enough oxygen, they begin to die. Blood carries oxygen around the body and to and from the brain. If the blood supply to the brain is disrupted in some way, brain cells begin to die. This causes damage within the brain that cannot be reversed.

Blood supply to the brain can be affected if the blood vessels that carry the blood are damaged inside, or become blocked, which results in a stroke occurring.

If a person survives a stroke, one of the outcomes may be post-stroke dementia, known as single-infarct dementia. This usually causes damage to one main area of the brain. Vascular dementia symptoms are determined by where in the brain this damage occurs.

Sometimes, a person may have lots of mini-strokes, which leads to multi-infarct dementia, which causes smaller amounts of damage but all over the brain.

Vascular dementia may also be caused by small vessel disease, where the blood vessels of the brain become narrower, resulting in less oxygen getting to brain cells, and very gradual damage that leads to symptoms developing slowly.

Some lifestyle factors and health conditions are thought to be what causes vascular dementia or increases your risk of experiencing it. The following cause damage to blood vessels and increase the risk of having a stroke:

• Smoking

• Poor diet and too much cholesterol

• High blood pressure

• Not getting enough exercise

• Being overweight

• Diabetes

• Drinking too much alcohol

• Atrial fibrillation

• Heart disease

Quitting smoking, eating more healthily, losing weight, exercising regularly and managing any other health conditions can all reduce your risk of developing vascular dementia, and also slow down the progression of the disease if you have already been given a diagnosis of vascular dementia.

Did you know
Vascular dementia is a type of dementia caused by loss of blood flow to the brain, which is sometimes caused by stroke.

Main types of vascular dementia

When receiving a dementia diagnosis, it’s likely you’ll be told what type of dementia you have. Sometimes you will need more tests to confirm the type you have. Each type of dementia is different and therefore each type of vascular dementia is also different.

The type of vascular dementia you are diagnosed with will be determined by what caused the damage in your brain and where the damage has occurred, which will in turn determine the symptoms of vascular dementia that are experienced.

Main types of vascular dementia

Here are the types of vascular dementia:

Stroke-related or post-stroke vascular dementia

Stroke occurs when the brain suddenly stops receiving blood and oxygen, due to a blood vessel narrowing or becoming blocked by a clot. Those that survive a stroke may have lasting effects and symptoms, and may develop vascular dementia as a result. For more information on dementia after stroke, download this Stroke Association leaflet.

Single-infarct dementia and multi-infarct dementia

Caused by small strokes, which the person may not even realise they are having due to a lack of stroke symptoms. They are caused by blocked blood vessels, which may unblock themselves, resulting in damage being left behind.

Subcortical dementia

Small blood vessels in the brain become deformed, harden and twist so that blood does not flow through them properly.

Mixed dementia

Some people may be given a diagnosis of ‘mixed dementia’ which means they may have multiple types, such as Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia.

For more information about the types of vascular dementia, visit the Alzheimer’s Society website.

Did you know
Vascular dementia causes symptoms such as memory loss, confusion, personality changes, slowed thinking and communication difficulties.
Symptoms of vascular dementia

Symptoms of vascular dementia

Everyone will experience vascular dementia symptoms differently. Symptoms sometimes start suddenly or come on slowly over time, depending on the causes of vascular dementia. People can live with vascular dementia symptoms for many years before they become a problem, or before they seek diagnosis.

If you think you or someone you know may be experiencing symptoms of vascular dementia, you should talk to a GP. The symptoms we list here could well be symptoms of lots of other health conditions, medication side effects, etc. but should be checked out nonetheless.

Symptoms of vascular dementia include:

• Slow thought processes

• Finding concentrating difficult

• Feeling suddenly confused

• Forgetfulness e.g. being unable to remember certain words or events

• Balance problems e.g. feeling wobbly or having a fall

• Having mood swings, feeling irritable, acting aggressively

• Changes to personality e.g. behaving more introverted than usual, acting reckless etc

• Experiencing anxiety or depression is common

• Language changes or difficulties e.g. speaking more slowly, using a smaller vocabulary, stumbling over words, etc

• Problems with eating and drinking

• Problems with coordination

People with a vascular dementia diagnosis may experience one or a couple of these symptoms, or all of them. Each person is different, and they will experience symptoms to varying degrees. Some symptoms may have a minor effect on daily life, whereas others may impact a person’s abilities more profoundly.

Vascular dementia is likely to get progressively worse over time and some people find that they need help with mobility and daily tasks such as personal care, eating and drinking, etc. Read our section on products for vascular dementia to find out more about using equipment to help with daily living tasks.

Diagnosis of vascular dementia

If you are concerned you may have symptoms of dementia, it is important to visit your GP. Some people fear receiving a dementia diagnosis, but it is beneficial to find out if you have the condition or not, so that you can get the right vascular dementia treatment and support. Some people are able to slow the progression of vascular dementia down by changing their lifestyle, so if you know you have it, you will be advised accordingly.

If you visit your GP and they suspect you may have dementia, you will likely be referred to a specialist who will conduct tests and perhaps take images of your brain to find out if you do have dementia.

Did you know
Vascular dementia treatment usually focuses on preventing any further damage to the brain, through reducing the risk of stroke, heart disease, high blood pressure, and living a healthy lifestyle.

Living with vascular dementia

Living with a condition such as vascular dementia can be challenging, for both the person with dementia and the people around them. It can be difficult to see someone you know experiencing symptoms and changes to their personality, abilities and lifestyle, and it is of course difficult to experience these things yourself.

Many people are able to live well with vascular dementia for many years. The disease does progress for most people, but periods in between the arrival of new symptoms or worsening of symptoms can be quite long. With treatment and living a healthy lifestyle, it is possible for some people to slow the disease down. Here, we look at vascular dementia treatment options, as well as therapeutic treatments for vascular dementia that may help relieve symptoms or make daily life easier.

Living with vascular dementia

Impact on daily living

Having vascular dementia may create challenges in day to day life. Some people will experience difficulties with:


Some people with vascular dementia may be able to work, but symptoms can make this difficult.


Lots of people with dementia are still able to drive, but this has to be done safely and there are legal requirements that you should be aware of. Read more information on dementia and driving.

Eating and drinking

Sometimes, dementia affects a person’s coordination, swallowing, grip, ability to prepare food, or appetite.

Personal care

Some people may find it difficult to use the toilet, bathe or shower themselves, they may also find it hard to remember the process of getting dressed etc.

General health

A person with vascular dementia may have other health conditions that need to be taken care of through medication or regular check-ups, and their symptoms may mean they forget to take care of themselves properly.

The Alzheimer’s Society provides a huge amount of advice and information about all aspects of living with vascular dementia.

Many people with vascular dementia will need support with some daily tasks. If you are one of them, or if one of your loved ones are finding things difficult, you may be eligible for an Occupational Therapy assessment via your local social services department – contact your local council for advice. An Occupational Therapist looks at the activities a person is having difficulty with, and tries to find ways that a task can be adapted to make it easier. Sometimes, they may be able to recommend daily living aids – these are products designed to help with mobility and everyday tasks.

If you are a carer for someone with vascular dementia, it is important to realise that you matter too, and to get support and help from a variety of sources. The NHS Dementia guide provides advice about looking after someone with dementia, including information about how to care for them and also to care for yourself. You may also like to contact Carer’s Trust for information and advice about being a carer, including benefits you may be entitled do.

It may help to understand what it is like living with vascular dementia, or living with someone who has the condition, by reading or listening to other people’s stories. Read about DianneAudrey and AlanCarol and Peter and Peter.

Treatment for vascular dementia

Vascular dementia is not curable and there are no treatments that can reverse the damage done to the brain. Medications used to treat Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia do not work for vascular dementia (although if a person has multiple types of dementia, they may be given these drugs).

Vascular dementia treatments therefore aim to control other aspects of health or other conditions that may be what causes vascular dementia in a person. For example, medication can help reduce the risk of strokes, lower blood pressure, treat high cholesterol and keep diabetes under control.

Other treatments for vascular dementia include:


To help with mobility problems, development of an exercise regime.

Speech and language therapy

To help with communication difficulties, eating/drinking and swallowing.

Occupational therapy

To find ways of adapting everyday activities that have become difficult, to make them more manageable or easier.

Psychological therapy

To help reduce mental health symptoms such as low mood, depression, anxiety, etc.

There are many complementary therapies as well which can help relieve vascular dementia symptoms such as stress, agitation, low mood, and increase feelings of relaxation and wellbeing. For example:

• Aromatherapy

• Massage

• Reflexology

• Reiki

Vascular dementia treatment may also take the form of person-centred activities designed to increase a person’s wellbeing, opportunity for socialising and being creative and staying active, for example, music therapy and reminiscence therapy.

For more information on treatment for vascular dementia, visit the NHS website.

Products for vascular dementia

At Healthcare Pro, we are experts in equipment that helps support people to live independently or with the help of a carer, including vascular dementia products. These daily living aids and assistive technology aids can help a person in various aspects of daily life, and we give some examples below.


If you would like to speak to one of our Occupational Therapists to find if there are any daily living aids that may help you or someone you care for, please email them [email protected] or telephone 0345 121 8111.

Vascular dementia diet

Eating a healthy diet is essential to maintain a healthy weight and lifestyle, which in turn will help overall health and wellbeing.

Some people with dementia have difficulty eating and drinking, due to changes in appetite and attitude to food, or physical problems that make consuming food and drink difficult. Alzheimer’s Society provides a factsheet about eating and drinking with dementia including tips for carers.

Some people take vascular dementia supplements e.g. Omega-3 (found in oily fish), B vitamins and folic acid, but there is little proof that these actually have an impact on the progression of the condition or its symptoms.

Exercise for dementia

Taking regular exercise that gets the heart pumping is one of the best ways to reduce the risk of developing dementia as it keeps the heart healthy and reduces the risk of strokediabetes and heart disease – all of which can be risk factors for vascular dementia. Taking exercise also helps stimulate the brain and makes you feel good, which is important for people with long-term health conditions, who may be at risk of mental health problems.

People with vascular dementia are advised to be as active as possible, and your GP or a physiotherapist may be able to advise if you are unsure how to start or have concerns about doing so. For more information and advice, read the Alzheimer’s Society factsheet.

Vascular dementia and employment

Many people with vascular dementia are able to work and those that do are advised to inform their employer of their health condition.

The Alzheimer’s Society provides a leaflet on employment and dementia which you may find useful, which covers legal aspects of telling your employer and your rights at work.

Did you know
There are lots of daily living aids available to help with everyday tasks that may have become difficult due to dementia, such as memory loss aids and mobility equipment.


We hope this guide to vascular dementia has helped you understand more about this condition. We have covered lots of aspects of living with vascular dementia, including vascular dementia treatments and staying healthy. There are lots of other sources of advice and information, and below, we have listed some of these. We include some online communities where you can talk to other people affected by dementia, to share your experiences and there are lots of charities that provide helplines and support networks too.

If you have any concerns about the information you have read here, or are concerned you or someone you know may have dementia symptoms, speak to your GP for professional medical advice.



Carers UK Forum – an online space to share information and get support if you are caring for someone with dementia

Talking Point – the forum provided by Alzheimer’s Society, where you can talk openly about dementia


Alzheimer’s Society – the leading UK charity for Alzheimer’s and other dementia conditions, including a wealth of information about all aspects of life with dementia, as well as a helpline and local support networks, and an online community

Alzheimer’s Research UK – a charity funding research into all types of dementia, with a website featuring information, statistics, advice for children who have family affected by dementia, and a helpline

Brace – a charity conducting research into dementia, providing information on new research findings

Dementia UK – a charity providing information about dementia as well as specialist dementia nurses called ‘Admiral nurses’ and a dementia helpline

NHS – source of official medical advice in the UK, featuring information about all dementia conditions, and related conditions, as well as practical living advice for carers and patients

Young Dementia UK – a charity supporting people who develop dementia at a younger-than-average age, providing information about lots of dementia conditions, regional support groups and an online community

Did you know
Smoking, drinking a lot of alcohol, eating fatty foods and not exercising can all increase a person’s risk of developing vascular dementia.


Although we always try to explain things as simply and as clearly as possible, sometimes it’s necessary to use the correct medical terminology. Medical terms are often known for being tricky to pronounce and if you’re not an expert in the subject, they can also be a little difficult to understand. Below, we’ve put together a list of terms used on this page along with a brief explanation of what they mean to help make your understanding of vascular dementia as straightforward as possible.

Atrial fibrillation

– an irregular heart beat which can lead to heart conditions such as stroke or heart failure

Blood pressure

– the strength of the movement of blood through blood vessels, which can be measured, and if it is too high means your heart and blood vessels are under too much strain


– related to the processes of the brain i.e. learning and understanding

Nerve cells

– the essential matter in the body that carry electrical signals to and from the brain, enabling the body to function


– related to the brain and spinal cord


– gas that is present naturally in the environment, which we breathe in, and which is essential to make our cells and organs work


– related to the vessels in the body i.e. blood vessels

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