Vascular Dementia Life Expectancy and Outlook

Medically Reviewed By Shilpa Amin, M.D., CAQ, FAAFP

According to research, the average life expectancy for people with vascular dementia is less than 5 years from the time of diagnosis. However, everyone is different, and the disease may progress more slowly or quickly for some people. Vascular dementia is a progressive condition, meaning it gradually worsens and can’t be cured. However, some treatments may slow its progression and increase life expectancy.

This article discusses vascular dementia life expectancy and progression. It also covers treatments that may slow the progression of the condition and what caregivers should know about the disease.

What is the life expectancy for someone with vascular dementia?

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According to a large 2020 study Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source , the average life expectancy after a vascular dementia diagnosis is:

  • 4.4 years for females
  • 3.9 years for males

The same study noted that the overall life expectancy for dementia is:

  • 5.1 years for females
  • 4.3 years for males

All forms of dementia shorten life expectancy. In general, vascular dementia life expectancy is lower than the life expectancy for Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form Trusted Source National Institute on Aging Governmental authority Go to source of dementia.

Learn more about the types of dementia.

However, everyone is different. The National Health Service explains that some people can live for several years with the condition or may die from another cause.

It is important to remember that life expectancy figures are estimates and are based on previous medical studies. Talk with your doctor about the outlook for your specific condition.

How does vascular dementia progress?

The World Health Organization Trusted Source World Health Organization Highly respected international organization Go to source outlines the three general stages of dementia as follows:

  • Early stage: At this stage, the symptoms of dementia are typically subtle. A person may be forgetful, become lost easily, or lose track of time.
  • Middle stage: At this stage, symptoms become more pronounced. A person may have difficulty communicating, forget people’s names, or become confused easily.
  • Late stage: People at this stage typically need specialized care. They may not recognize loved ones, be able to walk or move unassisted, or be aware of where they are.

The rate at which vascular dementia progresses can vary depending on certain underlying factors.

When vascular dementia results from a stroke, symptoms may begin Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source suddenly. The extent of the stroke can influence the severity of the symptoms. Also the areas of the brain affected can influence which symptoms occur. However, the National Institute on Aging Trusted Source National Institute on Aging Governmental authority Go to source notes that strokes may not immediately cause noticeable symptoms.

Cognitive symptoms may also develop gradually. This can happen when the underlying cause is a chronic blood vessel issue rather than an acute event. Chronic blood vessel problems may be caused by conditions such as :

However, these conditions are also risk factors for stroke, meaning they could also lead to sudden symptoms.

The bottom line is that the progression of vascular dementia is highly variable. It depends on personal factors, such as overall health and existing underlying conditions. This can make determining any one person’s expected progression or life expectancy difficult.

Learn more about how different types of dementia progress.

Can vascular dementia treatments lengthen life expectancy?

There is no way to reverse vascular dementia However, treatment may help slow its progression and increase life expectancy.

Vascular dementia treatment plans typically involve both medical and non-pharmacological approaches. 

Medical treatments

There are no medications specifically approved Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source to treat vascular dementia. However, doctors may prescribe certain Alzheimer’s disease medications off label to slow cognitive decline caused by vascular dementia. These include drugs such as cholinesterase inhibitors.

Cholinesterase inhibitors work by preventing the breakdown of a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine. This may improve communication between nerve cells and stabilize dementia symptoms.

Research has shown Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source that cholinesterase inhibitors may be somewhat beneficial for people with vascular dementia. These include medications such as donepezil (Aricept) and galantamine (Razadyne). However, these treatments also carry a risk of adverse events.

Medications to prevent further brain damage may also be beneficial. These can include antiplatelets used to prevent stroke.

Non-pharmacological approaches

People with vascular dementia may also benefit from:

  • avoiding smoking
  • eating a balanced diet per their care team’s instructions
  • maintaining a moderate weight
  • limiting alcohol intake

Additional therapies may also help lessen the effects of the disease. These can include physical and psychological therapies.

What should caregivers know about vascular dementia?

Vascular dementia is a progressive condition. As a result, the approach to caring for a loved one with the disease will change over time.

Initially, family members may be able to offer the necessary care for someone with vascular dementia. Simple reminders, structured routines, and simplified tasks can help them with daily functions.

Eventually, people with vascular dementia typically need specialized care in a long-term facility. This is because symptoms will begin to interfere with their ability to care for themselves.

For someone with vascular dementia, talking with their care team early can give them time to explore options. This can help avoid feeling rushed to find the right place for your loved one to receive care. It can also ease your mind to know you have options if providing care at home becomes difficult.

If you or someone you love has vascular dementia, support is vital. The Alzheimer’s Association provides resources for people with any type of dementia and their caregivers. These include a 24-hour helpline and online support groups.

Summary

The average life expectancy for people diagnosed with vascular dementia is usually less than 5 years. However, everyone is different. Some people may live longer while others may live for a shorter time.

If you or someone you love has vascular dementia, talk with your care team about what to expect as the disease progresses.

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Medical Reviewer: Shilpa Amin, M.D., CAQ, FAAFP
Last Review Date: 2023 Dec 16
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