Vascular dementia is the second most common type of dementia and is caused by multiple strokes which damages the brain and therefore results in cognitive decline. The symptoms for vascular dementia are similar to alzheimer's disease (memory impairement and one or more of aphasia, apraxia, agnosia and problems with executive functioning) however includes cerebrovascular disease or focal neurological signs that are related to the symptoms of vascular dementia. The onset of vascular dementia is usually rapid however it can be patchy, depending on the where the damage of the brain is located.
While vascular dementia is caused by strokes and the risk factors of a stroke includes, physical inactivity, heavy or binge drinking, being overweight and drug use researchers have been investigating if improved health will indeed reduce the risk of various types of dementia including vascular dementia.
As a result, researchers have found that diet, exercise and mental stimulation will help prevent the onset of dementia. Social activity is also another preventative measure. Moreover, researchers have found that it is best to consider all the preventative methods being exercise, diet, mential stimulation and social activity together rather than one alone.
While studies have investigated the relationship of physical activity and alzheimers, it has also investigated the relationship between physical activity and vascular dementia with mixed findings.
Positive results include walking according to current health guidelines (3 times a week, 30 minutes each time) is associated with a 34% reduction in the risk of cognitive impairment. It is however recommended to exceed the current health guidelines, which may in turn increase benefits. Another study also found that physical activity improved cognitivie functioning in people who were at risk for dementia. The participants in the study had cognitive impairment, which improved after a 24-week home based physical activity program. Improvements were found 12 months after the intervention.
As the research indicates that physical activity can reduce the risk of vascular dementia, it is important to encourage people to exercise; especially for people who are at risk of cerebrovascular disease. Physical activity should be included in prevention programs.
Environmental and social factors needs to support the increase in a person's level of physical activity. Currently there are many western people who don't do the recommended levels.
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.
Dag Aarsland , Farzaneh S. Sardahaee , Sigmund Anderssen , Clive Ballard & the Alzheimer's Society Systematic Review group (2010) Is physical activity a potential preventive factor for vascular dementia? A systematic review, Aging & Mental Health, 14:4, 386-395, DOI: 10.1080/13607860903586136
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