Stroke and Dementia: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment (There IS Hope)

Stroke and Dementia: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment (There IS Hope)

Stroke and dementia are linked, but there is hope for recovery.

If you’re looking for a way to treat post-stroke dementia, you’ve come to the right place.

Today you’ll learn:

  • Causes of post-stroke dementia
  • Diagnosis for the condition
  • Treatment options to reverse dementia

Let’s get started.

What Is Post Stroke Dementia?

Post stroke dementia refers to vascular dementia that can develop after the brain sustains damage from a stroke.

Vascular dementia can cause cognitive problems like:

  • Difficulty with thinking and reasoning
  • Memory loss
  • Confusion
  • Decreased attention span
  • Problems performing activities of daily living
  • Difficulty making decisions and solving problems
  • Visual orientation problems like hallucinations
  • Language problems like aphasia

Please note that stroke and dementia are not always linked. The presence of some of these problems, like aphasia, does not mean you have dementia; but it’s a possibility.

Try not to rush to any conclusions until you see your general practitioner for a formal evaluation.

Diagnosing Vascular Dementia

Your general practitioner may refer you to a specialist who can order tests to diagnose your potential condition.

Some tests could include questions about your lifestyle, assessment of your mental abilities, blood tests, and brain scans.

A common test for mental abilities is the MMSE – Mini Mental State Examination. You can try it yourself here – but know that your doctor is the best person to administer the test.

Treatment for Post Stroke Dementia

If your doctor has diagnosed you with post stroke dementia, it’s best to explore all your treatment options.

Below you will find 5 different treatments that you can try. See which one works best for you!

We’ve organized them from the most conventional to the most unconventional…

1. Medication

cup of medication for post stroke dementia

Certain medications that can slow the progression of dementia, such as donepezil, galantamine, and rivastigmine. Talk to your doctor to see if they’re a good fit for you.

Also, your doctor might prescribe medication to help with your risk factors, such as a cholesterol reducing medication.

Be sure to take these medications as they might be able to slow the progression of post stroke dementia.

2. Stroke Management

doctor discussing link between stroke and dementia

Factors that increase your risk of heart disease and stroke also raise your risk of vascular dementia. Therefore by managing your stroke risk factors, you can manage vascular dementia. Some of these factors are:

  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Atrial fibrillation
  • Eating a high fat diet
  • Smoking
  • Drinking too much
  • Not exercising enough

If you have any of these risk factors, develop a plan to manage them.

3. Ketogenic Diet

ketogenic foods for post stroke dementia treatment

The ketogenic diet is a high-fat, adequate-protein, low-carb diet.

Studies have shown that the ketogenic diet can slow and even reverse symptoms of memory loss and cognitive impairment throughout all dementia stages. It’s impressive.

However, the ketogenic diet should only be tried if your doctor says it’s okay. The ketogenic diet is very high in fat, which can worsen some preexisting stroke risk factors, like high cholesterol.

As a result, this vascular dementia treatment is controversial and seriously requires a talk with your doctor before trying it.

4. MIND Diet

foods that help stroke and dementia

Do you like carbs too much to try the ketogenic diet? Give the MIND diet a try instead.

The MIND diet combines both the heart-healthy DASH and Mediterranean diets, and it’s really good for stroke recovery. Plus, it’s much more flexible, which can make it easier to stick to.

preliminary study showed that stroke survivor who followed the MIND diet had half the rate of cognitive decline as other stroke survivors.

Although the study was preliminary, both the DASH and Mediterranean diets have tons of research backing their heart- and brain-healthy benefits.

The MIND diet is simple to follow, too. It involves focusing on eating 10 specific foods that help stroke recovery:

  1. Green, leafy vegetables
  2. All other vegetables
  3. Berries
  4. Nuts
  5. Olive oil
  6. Whole grains
  7. Fish
  8. Beans
  9. Poultry
  10. Wine

Yum!

5. Cognitive Training

brain doing exercises for cognitive training

Cognitive training can help treat post-stroke dementia through the power of neuroplasticity. Whenever you repeatedly do something, you strengthen the neural connections responsible for that task through neuroplasticity.

Because the pathways grow stronger with practice, this phenomenon is also called “greasing the groove.” The stronger the connections become (or the greasier that groove gets), the better your skills become.

Neuroplasticity is why doing leg exercises over and over and over helps you get better at moving your leg. So, why not apply this concept to dementia recovery after stroke?

Why not repetitively practice using your cognitive skills?

Indeed, cognitive training provides hope for post-stroke dementia recovery.

Cognitive Training Could Help Post Stroke Dementia

sudoku cognitive training for dementia and stroke

To treat post stroke dementia with cognitive training, start by making note of the post-stroke dementia symptoms.

Then determine which ones you have the ability to practice. We’ll call these “practiceable” symptoms. Some examples of “practiceable” post stroke dementia symptoms are:

  • Impaired memory
  • Impaired problem solving skills
  • Impaired attention
  • Impaired language/communication

Whatever dementia symptoms you’re struggling with, try to practice those things. Cognitive training exercises are a great place to start.

The idea is that the more you use cognitive skills, the better you will get at it and reduce post-stroke dementia.

Hopefully, neuroplasticity will allow healthy parts of the brain to take over from the damage caused by stroke.

Hope for Recovery from Dementia After Stroke

No one seems to be talking about using repetitive practice to improve dementia after stroke, but we think more people should!

We already know that practicing leg exercises will help improve leg function, so it only makes sense that practicing memory exercises will help improve memory.

You’ll never know if repetitive practice could help you until you try.

So pick a cognitive skill that you’d like to get better at, like memory, and start practicing that skill daily.

Daily practice is how skills are made. It’s how you grease that groove!