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Wednesday, Mar 25, 2015

LeBlanc: Be on the lookout for vascular dementia

Common Sense Caregiving


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Vascular dementia, also known as "multi-infarct dementia," is the second most common type of dementia, second only to Alzheimer's disease. This debilitating illness is the result of impaired blood flow to the brain.

To keep the thought processes of human beings working properly, unobstructed blood vessels are necessary to supply oxygen and nutrition to that astonishing (and often mysterious) organ we call the brain. Unfortunately, in the case of a heart attack or stroke, it is common for the blood vessels to become damaged, increasing the risk of developing vascular dementia.

Diabetes is another great concern. High glucose levels in the body may also damage blood vessels. Basically, anything that may restrict circulation should be a concern. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, atrial fibrillation and even sleep apnea are all risk factors for vascular dementia.

During the last decade, a study was conducted by The University of California, San Francisco involving elderly women. They were all mentally healthy, but each one suffered from some type of sleep disorder. When they were examined five years later, it was discovered that 48 percent had developed mild cognitive impairment or dementia.

This would seem to be a wake-up call regarding sleep disorders. If you snore heavily or have sleep apnea that causes you to gasp for air in the middle of the night, understand this: Your brain is actually being prevented from receiving the correct amount of oxygen. This can cause serious cognitive damage or worse.

(I had two of my friends die in their sleep from sleep apnea. It's important you let your doctor know if this is happening to you; don't just brush it off.)

Wearing a CPAP mask may not be the most comfortable or attractive thing to wear while sleeping, but at least there will be a good flow of oxygen.

Commonly overlooked is the fact that those with Alzheimer's disease may also be victims of other ailments. They may still get vascular dementia on top of what they are already enduring, making their cognitive impairment even worse.

There is a saying: What's good for the heart is good for the brain. Well in the case of vascular dementia, this couldn't be more true!

Like all other types of dementia, most patients will not all have the same symptoms. With vascular dementia, symptoms may change according to what part of the brain in which the blood flow was restricted.

Like Alzheimer's, Vascular dementia may also be developed gradually. It doesn't always take as big shock to the system, such as a stroke.

Don't ever be afraid of talking to your doctor about signs of forgetfulness, for vascular dementia is one of the few types of dementia that may be reversible, if caught early enough that is.

? Please join me on Thursday, Dec. 5th 9:30 am. I will be hosting a dementia care workshop with United Way of Hernando at the Community Central building. With me I will have Christine Hamacher doing a fall prevention presentation. Come learn the correct way to use a gait belt to protect your loved one form falling. This is a free educational event at 7361 Forest Oaks Blvd. in Spring Hill. RSVP by calling (352)345-6270.

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