What is multi-infarct dementia?

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Multi-infarct dementia: Overview

Multi-infarct dementia is a loss of memory, thinking, judgment, or other mental skills caused by a series of strokes. A stroke occurs when blood flow to a part of the brain is blocked for a short time. If blood flow stops for too long, brain cells die. This leads to a loss of skills that you had before the stroke.

Treatment cannot fix damage caused by a stroke. But you can take medicine and make lifestyle changes that may prevent a future stroke. Changes in your schedule and home also can make life easier.

Vascular dementia

Vascular (or multi-infarct) dementia refers to a decline in a person's mental abilities that results from a series of strokes. A stroke occurs when blood flow to part of the brain is blocked, cutting off the blood supply to the brain.

Vascular dementia often progresses step by step, with declines in memory and mental functions occurring each time another stroke occurs. The specific symptoms a person has depend on which area of the brain the strokes have affected. Not all strokes cause symptoms.

Vascular dementia is often associated with hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis) caused by high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or diabetes. A person can reduce the risk of future strokes with healthy lifestyle changes and medicine.

How can you care for multi-infarct dementia?

  • Take all your medicines exactly as prescribed. Do not stop or change a medicine without talking to your doctor first. Medicines to lower blood pressure may include beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers, ACE inhibitors, and diuretics. You may take statins to lower cholesterol. Your doctor also may prescribe medicines for depression, pain, sleep problems, anxiety, or agitation.
  • Do not drive unless your doctor says it is okay. Your state driver's license bureau can do a driving test if there is any question. Plan for other ways of getting around when you are no longer able to drive.
  • Eat food that is low in saturated fat and salt. Eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables and foods high in fiber. A heart-healthy diet can reduce your chance of stroke.
  • Stay mentally active. Continue to read and do crossword puzzles or other hobbies.
  • Use lists and calendars to remember events.
  • Ask for support from family, friends, and a counselor who works with people who have dementia. Counseling may help you accept what has happened and find ways to cope.
  • Work with your doctor to control high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and other conditions that increase your chance of a stroke. A healthy diet, exercise, weight loss (if needed), and medicines can help.
  • Do not smoke. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about stop-smoking programs and medicines. These can increase your chances of quitting for good.
  • Limit alcohol to 2 drinks a day for men and 1 drink a day for women. Too much alcohol can cause health problems.
  • If your condition is mild, you can be involved with your doctor and caregivers in planning for the future. This includes organizing your home and daily tasks so that they are easier.

For caregivers

  • Make the home safe.
    • Set up a room on one floor so that your loved one does not have to climb stairs.
    • Move throw rugs and furniture that could cause falls.
    • Make sure lighting is good.
    • Put grab bars and seats in tubs and showers.
  • Keep to a set schedule. A routine can make a person with dementia feel safe.
  • Take care of yourself. Eat well, get enough rest, and take time to do things that you enjoy. Keep up with your own doctor visits, and make sure to take your medicines regularly. Get out of the house as much as you can. Find people to help you care for your loved one. Join a local support group.

Multi-infarct dementia: When to call

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You have symptoms of a stroke. These may include:
    • Sudden numbness, tingling, weakness, or loss of movement in your face, arm, or leg, especially on only one side of your body.
    • Sudden vision changes.
    • Sudden trouble speaking.
    • Sudden confusion or trouble understanding simple statements.
    • Sudden problems with walking or balance.
    • A sudden, severe headache that is different from past headaches.

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have new symptoms, such as:
    • Wandering or getting lost in places you know well.
    • Losing bladder or bowel control.
    • Having trouble following instructions.
    • Having problems handling money.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • You need help to arrange care.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.