Dementia refers to any number of conditions associated with progressive brain decline. In all forms of dementia, the symptoms are often subtle in the beginning, but in the later stages, they can be highly destabilising. The types of dementia are distinguishable by their causes.
Vascular dementia, for example, is a common type of dementia caused by reduced blood flow to the brain.
This leads to cognitive decline, causing symptoms such as memory loss and difficulties with thinking, problem-solving or language.
Vascular dementia can also affect the parts of their brain that handle visual information coming from the eyes.
According to the Alzheimer’s Society, a person in the early stages of vascular dementia may have difficulties with visuospatial skills.
Am I at risk?
There are a number of things that can put someone at risk of developing vascular dementia.
The risk factors consist of those that you can control and those you cant, such as age and genetics.
According to Alzheimer’s UK, age is the strongest risk factor for vascular dementia.
“A person’s risk of developing the condition doubles approximately every five years over the age of 65,” says the Alzheimer’s Society.
Previous health conditions can also heighten your risk of developing vascular dementia.
“One in every four or five people who have a stroke go on to develop dementia,” says Alzheimer’s Research UK.
Other factors can also increase someone’s risk of vascular dementia, as they can cause damage to blood vessels in the brain, notes the charity.
“These factors include smoking, high blood pressure (known as hypertension), high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, obesity and heart problems,” the health body says.
It is not a coincidence that these factors also contribute to poor heart health.
“Having heart or circulatory disease can raise your risk of dementia, so it makes sense to look after both your heart and your brain,” advises the British Heart Foundation (BHF).
With that in mind, the MIND (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) diet was created by researchers at Rush University in Chicago, to help prevent dementia and slow age-related loss of brain function.
It’s a combination of two diets already known to reduce risk of heart and circulatory disease:
- The Mediterranean diet (based on wholegrains, fish, pulses, fruits and vegetables)
- And the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet. The DASH diet is designed to control blood pressure – a risk factor for heart and circulatory diseases and dementia. It’s similar to the Mediterranean diet, but with a greater emphasis on reducing your salt intake.
“Both diets are backed by lots of research showing they can help your heart health, and some evidence to suggest they can contribute to lower levels of mental decline,” reports the BHF.