A third of all stroke survivors could develop dementia within five years

Three of the UK’s leading health charities are uniting against dementia this Dementia Awareness Week as they announce a joint investment into a new vascular dementia research programme.

The charities are highlighting the close link between dementia and strokes, with one in ten stroke survivors (10 per cent) expected to develop dementia within a year of having their stroke. This increases to a third (32 per cent) within 5 years.

Vascular dementia is the second most common form of dementia, and accounts for three quarters (75 percent) of all dementia cases in stroke survivors. Despite its prevalence, there are currently no proven treatments available.

In a bid to find ways to treat people living with this condition, the Alzheimer’s Society, British Heart Foundation and the Stroke Association have united to invest £2.2 million into a vascular dementia research programme.

This investment could be life-changing for the 150,000 people in the UK who are living with vascular dementia. The latest estimates suggest that by 2050 this number could more than double to 350,000 people.

Part of the investment will fund a large clinical study involving approx. 2,000 stroke patients, whose memories and other cognitive skills will be assessed over a two year period.

By comparing stroke patients who develop vascular dementia with those who do not, researchers hope to unpick the causes of the condition. Ultimately, this trial will help to improve how doctors identify and treat dementia related to stroke in the future.

There are more than 100,000 strokes each year in the UK, with over 1.2 million people currently living with the condition. Problems with thinking and memory often occur after stroke, but for many patients these problems do not get worse.

Danny Clarke, 69 from Liverpool said:

'Things changed for me seven years ago when I had a mini stroke and later was diagnosed with vascular dementia. I knew something was wrong when I went out and completely forgot where I lived. I just couldn’t remember how to get home.'

'My wife Cathy noticed my moods changed, that I was forgetting and misplacing things around the house, and I didn’t sleep. It was a distressing time for us both because we didn’t expect our lives to change.'

'I worry about my wife and the impact my condition will have on our lives. I am pleased to hear that charities are coming together to help people like me when there is very little awareness on vascular dementia.'

Dr Doug Brown, Director of Research, said:  

'Vascular dementia is the second most common type of dementia, accounting for almost one fifth of all cases. Despite this, we are still largely in the dark about its underlying causes.  Research into the condition currently makes up less than 5% of dementia research, and is stifled by a lack of funding.'

'This Dementia Awareness Week, Alzheimer’s Society is uniting with British Heart Foundation and Stroke Association to give a much needed boost to this area of research. Given the strong link between strokes and vascular dementia and with no treatments available, this investment will take us a step closer to ultimately preventing people from developing dementia after a stroke.'

Professor Joanna Wardlaw, Chair of Applied Neuroimaging at the University of Edinburgh, leading the research, said:

'By comparing those whose who develop vascular dementia after stroke with those who don’t we hope to find out what causes vascular dementia, and find a way to prevent it.'

 

The grants awarded are:

  • Professor Roxana Carare, University of Southampton: Failure of drainage of fluid from the brain along the walls of blood vessels in vascular dementia.
  • Professor Karen Horsburgh, University of Edinburgh: Developing new models to better understand and allow testing of new therapies for small vessel disease and vascular dementia
  • Professor Joanna Wardlaw, University of Edinburgh: A national, collaborative study to improve our understanding of longer term memory and thinking problems after stroke