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December 2008 Mayo Clinic Women's HealthSource Highlights Happiness, Dementia and Smoking
Date:12/9/2008

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The disorder is most often caused by brain damage resulting from multiple small strokes, which can occur when one or more arteries in the brain narrow or become completely blocked. The risk of VCI can be significantly reduced by managing controllable risk factors, such as blood pressure, cigarette smoking, diabetes and cholesterol levels.

While not all strokes cause dementia, in some cases a stroke can result in the sudden onset of VCI. Other forms of this condition develop gradually and can easily be confused with Alzheimer's. Common symptoms include confusion and agitation, problems with language and memory, unsteady gait and frequent falls, loss of bowel or bladder control, and personality changes.

Typically, a declining ability to organize thoughts or actions is the first symptom of VCI. This sets the disorder apart from Alzheimer's, where problems with memory usually occur first

Once vascular cognitive impairment occurs, damage can't be reversed. Treatment focuses on preventing further damage.

These steps can reduce the risk of developing VCI:

Stop smoking: This reduces the risk of stroke dramatically. Within a few years of becoming smoke free, ex-smokers lower their risk of stroke to the same level as a nonsmoker.

Control diabetes: Careful control of blood sugar may reduce the brain damage a stroke can cause.

Control high blood pressure: Hypertension puts extra pressure on blood vessels throughout the body. Exercising, managing stress, maintaining a healthy weight and limiting sodium and alcohol consumption are ways to manage blood pressure. Medications may be needed, too.

Lower cholesterol and saturated fat intake: A low-fat, low-cholesterol diet may help reduce the buildup of fatty deposits in the arteries. Cholesterol-lowering medications may be h
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