Vascular Dementia

Vascular Dementia: Vascular Neurocognitive Disorder

In this article we’re going to talk about Vascular Dementia. With this type of dementia, oxygen and blood flow that provides the necessary nourishment of the nerve cells and brain are disrupted. There are three major reasons this can happen; bleeding, blockage, or limiting the flow of blood.

In these instances, the brain cells not getting nourishment die, unless other blood vessels nearby take over the task. The specific symptoms the person will show depend on what structures or parts of the brain are being injured with the change of blood flow. With some of these events, the person may show an improvement after a few days, but the person typically does not make a full recovery. Below we’ll discuss more about each reason.


One cause is an event that leads to bleeding. The nerve cells become damaged by the pressure from the blood and they die because they are not getting nourishment. This can be either slow, which is difficult to notice, or rapid and can be noticed immediately.


A second cause is when there is a blockage in the blood vessel. In this case, the blood vessel is clogged and the oxygen and nourishment can’t get through, leaving the blocked nerve cells, without nourishment and oxygen.

Limiting The Flow of Blood

The third common cause of the damage is from a partial blockage of blood vessels. This typically involves the smallest vessels in the brain. Damage to these vessels is primarily due to the buildup of plaque inside as well as inflammation and irritation possibly caused by high blood pressure, problems with sugar processing, or severe drops in blood pressure that result in very limited blood flow to the brain. In this situation, there are short periods of time when flow is greatly limited or impaired, but not actually totally stopped. This causes the cells to lose nourishment and malfunction, but not always die. Therefore, symptoms may come and go and behavior & alertness may change significantly over short periods of time.

What Is Vascular Neurocognitive Disorder?

Below is more information about vascular neurocognitive disorder:

  • It is not the same as Alzheimers disease
  • It has different causes and there are different types
  • The risk of progression can be reduced
  • It can look very different for different people
  • Medical management will be different than for Alzheimer’s disease

Factors That Lead to Vascular Neurocognitive Disorder

Below are some possible factors that may lead to vascular neurocognitive disorder:

  • Heart attacks
  • Hyperthermia (heat exposure)
  • Hypothermia (cold exposure), partial drowning
  • Low sugar or High sugar episodes (hypoglycemia or diabetic episode)
  • TIAs (‘mini-stroke’)
  • Other times in which the blood supply to the brain is cut off or reduced

What Causes Vascular Neurocognitive Disorder?

Below are some possible causes of vascular neurocognitive disorder:

  • Strokes
  • Hypertension that is not controlled
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Peripheral vascular disease
  • Smoking
  • Genetic tendencies in the family

Loss of blood flow to the brain can cause vascular neurocognitive disorder. This can happen as a result of:

  • Heart Attack
  • Head injury
  • Blood pressure dropping too low for a length of time

How To Reduce Risk of Vascular Neurocognitive Disorder

There are many things that can reduce your risk of developing it and make a difference in progression. Below we’ve listed a few:

  • Early detection
  • Proper diagnosis
  • Careful monitoring and treatment

How Common Is Vascular Neurocognitive Disorder?

Depending on the source of information, it is either the second most common or the third most common neurocognitive disorder. It is more common in areas where the rate of cardiovascular, or heart and blood vessel disease and adult onset diabetes are higher. Men are at a higher risk of developing this than women. Age is a risk factor, but some forms hit early 30-40 year olds, while others hit later 50-80 year olds

Struggles With Vascular Neurocognitive Disorder

There are many struggles that people have with vascular neurocognitive disorder may encounter. We’ve broken these down into three categories.


  • Mild loss of ‘thinking or judgment skills’ compared to educational level and past performance
  • Memory problems tend to include both difficulties with forming new memories (learning new things) but also remembering older events correctly (different than with Alzheimer’s disease)
  • Disorientation to current situation – not able to appreciate the difficulties they are having
  • Difficulty speaking, finding words, and comprehension


  • Change in typical personality and behaviors
  • Apathy (not wanting to do anything), inability to ‘get going’, sitting around all the time, more sleeping or resting, less activity, more refusals to ‘do anything’
  • Severe depression may set in – it may look sad or angry – may include changes in eating, sleeping, self-care, enjoyment, mood, and talk of ‘ending it all’
  • Mood swings (rapid changes in mood and feelings without a clear cause)
  • Delusional thinking (has fantasies about what others are doing or thinking)

Movement or Performance

  • Difficulty using hands and tools to do familiar tasks
  • Difficulty with balance and coordination in walking
  • Inability to move or weakness in arms or legs
  • Getting lost and confused, sometimes even in familiar settings
  • Difficulty keeping track of time – mis-remembering appointments and misjudging how long something takes
  • Difficulty swallowing safely
  • Slowed movement or performance on typical activities
  • Reflexes may be very strong and may interfere with normal function
  • Urinary incontinence may occur early and fairly suddenly

We hope that this article on Vascular Neurocognitive Disorder (Vascular Dementia) was helpful. Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions.