Finding cures for vascular dementia
Originally published at bhf.org.uk, written by Aaron McDonald.
Imagine the one person you care about more than anyone else slowly starting to fade away. They’re with you physically, but the person inside isn’t the same.
At first, they forget to pick something up from the supermarket. No big deal. But then they forget their way home. And then, one day, they can’t even remember who you are. Gradually they lose their identity.
That’s the harsh reality of vascular dementia, a condition that kills around 15,000 people in the UK every year. This number could be far greater, though, as it can be difficult to diagnose the different types of dementia.
As if this wasn’t enough, it is predicted that there could be more than 350,000 people in the UK living with vascular dementia by 2050, more than double the current figures.
A stroke can often be the catalyst for developing vascular dementia, and our new analysis shines a light on the association between stroke and dementia.
Our new analysis shows that people who have lived through a stroke are more than twice as likely to develop dementia, with around 120,000 stroke survivors living with the condition. According to the analysis, the age and gender standardised rate of dementia is 55 per 1,000 people among those who have survived a stroke, compared to 26 per 1,000 people in the general UK population.
Of those who go on to develop dementia following a stroke, around three quarters are diagnosed with vascular dementia.
Vascular dementia is the second most common type of dementia and occurs when there’s a problem with the blood supply to an area of your brain, often following a stroke. The cells in this affected area of your brain don’t get enough oxygen or nutrients, and they begin to die.
Although it is mainly associated with growing older, vascular dementia can affect people of all ages. If you develop the condition under the age of 65, this is known as ‘young onset’ or ‘early onset’ vascular dementia.
Worryingly, we currently don’t know enough about vascular dementia to be able to prevent and cure the cruel condition that causes so much heartbreak.
At the British Heart Foundation (BHF), we’re not prepared to sit by while thousands of people have their lives devastated by vascular dementia — that’s why we’re currently funding around £10 million into research projects on vascular dementia.
Researchers like Professor Joanna Wardlaw from the University of Edinburgh are leading the way in the search for better treatments and hopefully one day a cure for the condition.
Professor Wardlaw is leading a clinical trial into potential treatments for a type of stroke, called lacunar stroke, which is caused by damage to one of the small blood vessels deep within the brain. It’s thought that lacunar stroke may cause up to half of all dementias.
The trial is looking into whether two drugs currently used to treat other heart and circulatory diseases could be used to treat lacunar strokes and potentially prevent some cases of dementia.
While these are positive steps in the right direction, there is more to be done. To build on our progress we must continue to fund vital research so that lives aren’t torn apart by vascular dementia in the future.
More on symptoms and causes of vascular dementia
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Originally published at https://www.bhf.org.uk.
Finding cures for vascular dementia was originally published in British Heart Foundation on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.