Vascular Dementia (VD) is an incredibly prominent neurodegenerative disorder, accounting for around 20% of dementia cases (Iadecola, 2013). So what exactly is vascular dementia? To boil it down, VD is a condition that causes progressive death of brain cells due to inadequate blood flow. People suffering from vascular dementia experience rapid cognitive decline, difficulty in critical thinking and decision making, trouble walking and walking, and eventually death (Mayo Clinic, 2018).
You may be wondering how this all happens? Why do issues in the cerebrovascular system (the portion of your circulatory system that interacts with the brain) lead to neuron death? Well, our blood serves many purposes. The cerebrovascular system provides our brain cells with oxygen, which is used to create energy for the cell. When your cells are hypoxic (without oxygen) they cannot make enough energy to maintain its function. Since our bodies are naturally programmed to get rid of cells that are not working, the hypoxic brain cells undergo a cascade of events that leads to apoptosis, controlled cell death (Sendoel & Hengartner, 2020).
Scientists have identified many risk factors for vascular dementia. Smoking cigarettes, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, atrial fibrillation (irregular heartbeat), atherosclerosis (plaque build up in the arteries), stroke, and other cardiovascular diseases all increase the likelihood of developing VD (Korczyn, Vakhapova, & Grinberg, 2012; May Clinic, 2018).
Like all forms of dementia, the name of the game is prevention. There are things that you can do to reduce your chances of developing vascular dementia. Most of it comes down to your heart health. Healthy heart/cardiovascular system = healthier brain. Exercising, maintaining a good diet (low in bad cholesterol and high in good cholesterol), and consistent check-ups with a cardiologist, are essential in maintaining your brain health as you age (Mayo Clinic, 2018)!