Vascular dementia is the second most common type of dementia. For every 100 people with dementia, 20 of those will have vascular dementia.

What is vascular dementia?

Vascular dementia occurs when blood vessels that deliver blood to the brain become damaged. Our blood contains oxygen and nutrients that help the brain cells to work properly.

When blood vessels are damaged, this reduces blood flow to the brain cells. So, brain cells don't get enough oxygen and nutrients. These starved brain cells then become damaged and don’t function properly. This is what causes symptoms of vascular dementia, like memory and thinking problems.

Sometimes this blood vessel and brain cell damage can cause memory and thinking problems that are mild and therefore are not diagnosed as dementia. This is sometimes called vascular mild cognitive impairment.

Causes of vascular dementia

There are different types of vascular dementia, caused by underlying conditions that lead to blood vessel damage. Not everyone is told the specific cause for their vascular dementia when they're diagnosed, and some people have more than one cause of vascular dementia.

Conditions that affect our blood vessels and reduce blood flow to the brain cause vascular dementia by damaging brain cells. The most common conditions that cause brain damage in vascular dementia are described below.

You can find more information about the causes of vascular dementia in our blog here.

What is vascular dementia?

This booklet aims to help you understand more about vascular dementia. It gives an overview of the causes, symptoms and treatments.

Sue Strachan - Photo credit Alex Wallace
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This information was updated in December 2023 and is due to be reviewed in December 2025. It was written by Alzheimer’s Research UK’s Information Services team with input from lay and expert reviewers. Please get in touch if you’d like a version with references or in a different format.

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