September is World Alzheimer’s Month. It’s also the month it became time for my mother-in-law Peg to move into an extended care facility (ECF) due to her vascular dementia (VaD).
So, what is VaD? While it’s often mistaken for Alzheimer’s disease because mental functioning slowly deteriorates over time, with VaD the central nervous system damage results from waxing and waning circulation to the brain, small vessel disease, TIAS’s (transient ischemic attacks), and mini-strokes. The most common type is multi-infarct dementia; the result of several strokes.
As a cardiologist, I’ve seen many cases of VaD because it’s more common in those with cardiac conditions. In fact, 50% of the time high blood pressure is the cause. But it can also happen in people with arteriosclerosis, valvular disease, congestive heart failure, atrial fibrillation, and pacemaker therapy.
The classic signs of VaD are slowed thinking, memory problems, confusion that often worsens at night, personality changes, loss of social skills, hallucinations, and delusions. People with VaD often have difficulty speaking or understanding speech, trouble doing everyday tasks that used to come easily, and difficulty functioning in everyday life.
There wasn’t much Peg could do to prevent VaD except get adequate care for her cardiac issues—which she did, and so should you. She was a non-smoker who rarely drank alcohol.
You can also help to prevent and treat VaD by reducing your risk for stroke including:
- Keep your blood pressure and blood sugar in the normal range.
- Avoid smoking and only drink alcohol in moderation.
- Take 1–3 grams of fish oil daily.
- For women over 65, take 100 mg of aspirin (equivalent to 1.25 baby aspirin) a day. (Beware of stomach bleeding, though, which is always a possibility with long-term aspirin use.)
- Drink 1 to 3 cups of green tea and 2 ounces of pomegranate juice daily.
- Be aware of your high inflammation marker scores: CRP, homocysteine, fibrinogen, and Lp(a).
How about you? Do you know someone with VaD or Alzheimer’s Disease?