Vascular dementia is just one form of dementia. The word dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a set of symptoms that can include memory loss and difficulties with thinking.
The symptoms can start suddenly or come on slowly over time. Although many of the signs are similar to those of other types of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s, there are seven early symptoms to watch out for.
The sooner the disease is diagnosed the sooner the correct treatment can be received.
But can vascular dementia be prevented in the first place? A healthy, balanced diet may reduce your risk of dementia, and according to Alzheimer’s Society there’s a six-point plan to follow.
Eating at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day is the first point, followed by eating protein (such as oily fish, beans, pulses, eggs or meat) at least twice a week.
You should also limit your sugar intake and look out for hidden salt, eat starchy foods like bread, potatoes and pasts, and eat less saturated dat.
Finally, you should drink six to eight glasses of fluid (such as water, lower fat milk and sugar-free drinks) a day.
Vascular dementia is caused by reduced blood flow to the brain, and the NHS explains there are usually three causes for this.
These include narrowing of the small blood vessels deep inside the brain – known as subcortical vascular dementia or smell vessel disease, a stroke (where the blood supply to part of the brain is suddenly cut off, usually as the result of a blood clot) – called post-stroke dementia or single-infarct dementia.
There are a number of things that can increase your chances of getting vascular dementia in later life.
People with high blood pressure, those who smoke, have an unhealthy diet, and high blood cholesterol are at increased risk.
Likewise, people who lack exercise, are overweight or obese, have diabetes, excessively consume alcohol, or have atrial fibrillation are more likely to develop vascular dementia.
The NHS explains: “These problems increase the risk of damage to the blood vessels in and around the brain, or cause blood clots to develop inside them.”
To reduce your risk it’s advised you make some healthy lifestyle changes, such as stopping smoking and regularly exercising.
But some things that increase your risk of vascular dementia can’t be changed.
These include your age, as the risk of vascular dementia increases as you get older.
Your family history is also an unchangeable risk factor. Your risk of problems such as strokes is higher if a close family has had them.
Finally, your ethnicity can’t be changed. If you have a south Asian, African or Caribbean background, your risk of vascular dementia is higher.
This is because related problems such as diabetes and high blood pressure are more common within these groups.
Another diet praised for helping slow down dementia and maintain mental function it the MIND diet – a diet developed specifically to help improve brain function and reduce dementia which is a combination of the Mediterranean diet and the blood pressure-lowering DASH diet.