Vascular Dementia: How Heart Disease Is Connected

April 5, 2021
4 min read
Vascular Dementia: How Heart Disease Is Connected

The vascular system is a web of veins that run through the body but how does that connect with your heart? Read below to find out what vascular dementia is, and how research is helping find a connection every day.

What Is Vascular Dementia?

Vascular dementia is the reduced blood supply to the brain due to diseased blood vessels. For the brain to develop and work, the cells need blood.  If the vascular system within the brain becomes damaged, then blood cannot reach the cells. This cell death can cause problems with memory, thinking, or reasoning. When these cognitive problems cause issues in the patient’s normal life, then vascular dementia has set in.


Dementia and other diseases are often misdiagnosed because they have similar signs and symptoms. Although vascular dementia causes problems with blood flow to the brain, this issue can manifest in different ways. Examples of vascular dementia include.

·        Mixed dementia: occurs when symptoms of both vascular dementia and Alzheimer's exist

·        Multi-infarct dementia: occurs after repeated small blockages affect blood flow to a certain part of the brain

Dementia and Heart Disease

Many people already know they should avoid risk factors like smoking and drinking to stop heart disease. There is good evidence that keeping mentally active throughout life reduces dementia risk. There is some evidence for the benefits of being socially active.

To explore the effect of vascular risk factors on dementia, a research team led by Dr. Rebecca Gottesman at Johns Hopkins University studied nearly 16,000 middle-aged people. The participants ranged between 44 and 66 years old. The study was conducted from 1987 through 1989 across four states. Over 25 years, the researchers examined the participants five times with a variety of medical tests.

Researchers gave the participants cognitive tests of memory and thinking during the second, fourth, and fifth exams. In addition to in-person visits, the researchers collected health data through telephone interviews, caregiver interviews, hospitalization records, and death certificates. 

More than 1,500 of the participants were diagnosed with dementia over 25 years. The analysis confirmed prior findings that those with vascular risk factors such as diabetes or hypertension in midlife had a greater chance of developing dementia with age. This connection raised a major red flag for NINDS Director Dr. Walter J, Koroshetz.

“With an aging population, dementia is becoming a greater health concern. This study supports the importance of controlling vascular risk factors like high blood pressure early in life in an effort to prevent dementia as we age,” Koroshetz. “What’s good for the heart is good for the brain.” 

Learn More About Vascular Dementia and Heart Disease Connection

At BASS Medical Group, our team is committed to giving our patients the best care and knowledge we can. Give us a call today at (925) 350-4044 to get in touch with a specialist who can help work you through the world of dementia and heart disease.