There is limited awareness among both the public and practitioners that the risk of developing vascular dementia or mixed dementia can be reduced, or the onset or progression delayed, through lifestyle changes. After Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia is the most common type of dementia, accounting for up to 130,000 cases.

Vascular disease can be prevented, and so reductions in the number of people with vascular and mixed dementias may be expected to follow if risk factors are addressed.

Alzheimer’s Research UK’s 2018 Dementia Attitudes Monitor survey demonstrated that knowledge of the risk factors associated with dementia remain low. Our guideline on dementia, disability and frailty in later life – mid-life approaches to delay or prevent onset and our dementia quality standard suggest interventions and programmes that promote behaviour change and awareness, such as NHS Health Checks and stop smoking services. These programmes encourage changes in behaviour in mid-life to prevent people developing dementia in later life.

Vascular dementia is caused by reduced blood supply to the brain due to diseased blood vessels. This can cause problems with memory, thinking or reasoning. Together these 3 elements are known as cognition. When these cognitive problems are bad enough to have a significant impact on daily life, this is known as vascular dementia. Mixed dementia is a combination of Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia.

Risk factors in mid-life

NICE recommends that national organisations and local government departments that influence public health, should develop and support initiatives to reduce the risk of dementia by making it easier for people to:

  • stop smoking
  • be more physically active
  • reduce their alcohol consumption
  • adopt a healthy diet
  • achieve and/or maintain a healthy weight.

The Alzheimer’s Society’s Dementia Friends programme is raising awareness of dementia in the wider population, with 3 million dementia friends. Health Education England is providing training in dementia to health and social care staff involved in the care of people who may have dementia.

NHS Digital’s Health Survey for England for 2013 and 2017 shows small positive changes across each age band for cigarette smoking and alcohol consumption.

Between 2013 and 2017, small positive changes were seen in cigarette consumption in England

Between 2013 and 2017, small positive changes were seen in the proportion of the population in England who were consuming alcohol at increasing or higher risk

The proportion of people who are overweight or obese has increased in the same period. This suggests that more needs to be done to encourage people to make healthier choices in mid-life.

The proportion of people in England who are overweight or obese is increasing

Factors which influence change are linked to a range of behavioral and social issues. Our behaviour change guideline covers a set of principles that can be used to help people change their behaviour. These principles can help practitioners to encourage people to adopt a healthier lifestyle, which will contribute to reducing the risk of people developing vascular or mixed dementia.