Vascular Dementia, or Vascular Cognitive Impairment, is a huge and growing problem, affecting nearly everyone by the age of 70.
Vascular dementia is the result of small blood vessels deep within the brain weakening with old age. The breaking down of these tiny arteries is called Small Vessel Disease. This breaking down of microvasculature is associated with poor blood pressure, but aging itself has been shown to weaken these blood vessels.
There are currently no known cures for vascular dementia, but it has been recently discovered that making simple lifestyle changes may prevent it:
- There is a large body of evidence suggesting that physical exercise can dramatically reduce the risk of cognitive decline.
- New studies have found that drinking beetroot juice will also dramatically decrease the likelihood of developing vascular cognitive impairment. Beets are high in nitric oxide, which has been shown to improve blood flow and lower blood pressure, thus potentially preventing the breakdown of smaller blood vessel in the brain.
- Lastly, a new therapeutic strategy is being developed called Remote Ischemic Conditioning. This approach uses a blood pressure cuff to strengthens an organ overtime, such as the brain, by inducing brief cycles of non-lethal ischemia. Since older patients are less willing or less able to exercise, this may be a good alternative.
Peter M. Lawrence, MSMI
David C. Hess, MD
© 2016 Peter M. Lawrence & Augusta University, Medical College of Georgia