Vascular dementia is the second most common cause of dementia in older people. Because it has a lower profile than Alzheimer's, many people don't suspect vascular dementia when forgetfulness becomes problematic. It's also difficult to diagnose so it's difficult to know exactly how many people suffer from vascular dementia. Current estimates attribute 15% to 20% of dementia cases in older adults to vascular dementia.
Compared to Alzheimer's disease, which happens when the brain's nerve cells break down, vascular dementia happens when part of the brain doesn't get enough blood carrying the oxygen and nutrients it needs.
Though they happen in different ways, it is possible to have both vascular dementia and Alzheimer's disease. Discouraging as this sounds, there is ample reason to control the risk factors that contribute to vascular dementia. Allowing the condition to run its course without intervention can make Alzheimer's disease worse.
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