According to the World Health Organization, stroke is the second leading cause of death globally. While we often associate stroke with physical disabilities like paralysis or speech difficulties, it can also have cognitive consequences. In fact, stroke can cause symptoms that are similar to those of dementia, such as memory loss, confusion, and difficulty with daily tasks.
But can a stroke actually cause dementia? The answer is complicated, but the short answer is yes.
What is Dementia?
First, it’s important to understand what dementia is. Dementia is a broad term that describes a decline in cognitive function, including memory, language, reasoning, and judgment. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia, but there are many other types as well.
How Can Stroke Cause Dementia?
Stroke can cause dementia through a condition known as vascular dementia. Vascular dementia is a type of dementia that occurs when the blood vessels in the brain are damaged, leading to reduced blood flow and oxygen to the brain. This can result in cognitive impairment and memory loss.
When a stroke occurs, a part of the brain may be damaged due to a lack of blood flow and oxygen. Depending on the severity and location of the stroke, the damage can affect different areas of the brain responsible for memory, thinking, and reasoning.
Repeated strokes can further damage the brain, leading to more severe and progressive dementia. Additionally, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and other risk factors for stroke can also increase the risk of developing dementia.
The Link Between Stroke and Dementia
The link between stroke and dementia is complex and multifactorial. Studies have shown that individuals who have had a stroke are at an increased risk of developing dementia. One possible explanation for this is that strokes can damage the blood vessels in the brain, leading to reduced blood flow and oxygen to the brain. This can result in cognitive impairment and memory loss, which are characteristic features of dementia. One study found that stroke survivors were twice as likely to develop dementia as people who had not had a stroke. The risk was even higher for people who had multiple strokes.
Additionally, strokes can cause brain damage that can lead to changes in brain structure and function. These changes can make it more difficult for the brain to process information and perform cognitive tasks, which can also contribute to the development of dementia. There are also several risk factors that increase the likelihood of both stroke and dementia. For example, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and smoking are all risk factors for both conditions. These risk factors can damage blood vessels in the brain, leading to a higher risk of stroke and dementia.
Symptoms of Stroke-Related Dementia
The symptoms of stroke-related dementia can vary depending on the individual and the location and severity of the stroke. However, there are some common symptoms that may indicate the presence of this condition. These symptoms can include:
- Memory loss: One of the most common symptoms of stroke-related dementia is memory loss, which can range from mild forgetfulness to more severe memory impairment.
- Difficulty communicating: Stroke-related dementia can also affect a person’s ability to communicate effectively. They may struggle to find the right words or express themselves clearly.
- Changes in behaviour: Stroke-related dementia can cause changes in a person’s behaviour and personality. They may become more irritable, withdrawn, or apathetic.
- Difficulty with daily tasks: As cognitive function declines, people with stroke-related dementia may have difficulty with tasks such as dressing, grooming, and preparing meals.
- Confusion: Confusion and disorientation are common symptoms of stroke-related dementia. A person may become lost or forget where they are or what they are doing.
- Depression: People with stroke-related dementia may experience depression, which can worsen their cognitive impairment and lead to further isolation and withdrawal.
- Impaired judgment: Stroke-related dementia can cause impaired judgment, which may lead to poor decision-making and risky behaviours.
What are the Treatments for Vascular Dementia?
Although medications for vascular dementia are not very common or easily available, medication plans often include cholinesterase. Cholinesterase boosts chemical signals in the brain to improve memory and judgment. The side effects often include nausea, muscle cramps, and vomiting. Aside from these medications, the best management plan for stroke-related dementia is a changed lifestyle habit. Lifestyle changes and diet improvements prevent future stroke chances and help in improving post-stroke physical conditions. Aside from medication and lifestyle changes, physiotherapy and other rehabilitation therapies also help in improving post-stroke conditions, thus preventing the progress of dementia in stroke patients.
Stem Cell Therapy for Dementia and Stroke
As discussed before, conventional medication for stroke causes side effects, whereas management modules like lifestyle changes and rehabilitation only focus on improving living conditions to prevent further stroke occurrence. Therefore, there is a dire need for utilizing regenerative therapies like stem cell therapy to heal the damage caused by stroke and prevent dementia progress. Stem cells have the potential to repair damaged tissues and blood vessels, besides regulating the immune system to limit inflammation caused by stroke. This potential of repair and rejuvenation makes stem cells a promising therapeutic candidate in case of stroke and stroke-related vascular dementia. Although stem cell treatment is an experimental therapy, patients have taken the leap seeking positive improvements and several cases have witnessed better motor movements, reduced anxiety, and improved speech.
Preventing Stroke and Dementia
The good news is that there are several steps that individuals can take to reduce their risk of both stroke and dementia.
Preventing stroke is one way to reduce the risk of developing dementia. This can be done by controlling high blood pressure, maintaining a healthy weight, and not smoking. For people who have already had a stroke, managing risk factors like high blood pressure and high cholesterol is important for preventing additional strokes and reducing the risk of developing dementia.
In conclusion, stroke can cause symptoms that are similar to those of dementia, and stroke survivors are at a higher risk of developing dementia later in life. While the link between stroke and dementia is not fully understood, it is clear that preventing stroke and managing risk factors is important for reducing the risk of developing cognitive impairment. By taking steps to prevent stroke, we can potentially reduce the risk of developing dementia as well.
Are you looking for free medical consultation on dementia and stroke? Connect with Advancells at [email protected] for more info or call +9196543 21400.