Vascular dementia is a decline in memory and thinking skills caused by a loss of blood flow to the brain. The most common cause of vascular dementia is stroke. When a stroke occurs, the vessels carrying blood to the brain may be damaged, causing a loss of blood flow to the brain. This damage may cause significant changes to memory, language, reasoning, and other thinking skills. A person’s mood and personality may change as well. Not everyone who has a stroke will get vascular dementia, but the risk for dementia is significantly higher in someone who has had a stroke. Vascular dementia is also more likely when a stroke affects both sides of the brain. Some people have both Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia, a condition known as mixed dementia.
The strong links between vascular disease and dementia is the reason many researchers encourage people to practice physical activity and heart-healthy nutrition, because lifestyle factors that can help decrease the risk of stroke or heart attack can also decrease the risk of vascular dementia.