BMC Med 2016 Nov 3;14(1):162. Epub 2016 Nov 3.
Neuroepidemiology and Ageing Research Unit, School of Public Health, Faculty of Medicine, The Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine, Charing Cross Hospital, St Dunstan's Road, W6 8RP, London, UK.
Background: Long before Alzheimer's disease was established as the leading cause of dementia in old age, cerebrovascular lesions were known to cause cognitive deterioration and associated disability. Since the middle of the last century, different diagnostic concepts for vascular dementia and related syndromes were put forward, yet no widely accepted diagnostic consensus exists to date.
Discussion: Several international efforts, reviewed herein, are ongoing to define cognitive impairment due to cerebrovascular disease in its different stages and subtypes. The role of biomarkers is also being discussed, including cerebrospinal fluid proteins, structural and functional brain imaging, and genetic markers. The influence of risk factors, such as diet, exercise and different comorbidities, is emphasised by population-based research, and lifestyle changes are considered for the treatment and prevention of dementia.
Conclusion: To improve the diagnosis and management of vascular cognitive impairment, further progress has to be made in understanding the relevant pathomechanisms, including shared mechanisms with Alzheimer's disease; bringing together fragmented research initiatives in coordinated international programs; testing if known risk factors are modifiable in prospective interventional studies; and defining the pre-dementia and pre-clinical stages in line with the concept of mild cognitive impairment due to Alzheimer's disease.