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February 2022


Reducing the risk of vascular dementia

February is heart disease awareness month and Forward with Dementia are raising awareness about Vascular Dementia which has similar risk factors, and is related to, heart and other cardio-vascular diseases.

In Australia, vascular dementia is the second most common cause of dementia after Alzheimer's disease. Vascular dementia encompasses several subtypes of dementia that result from by ongoing problems with circulation of the blood to and within the brain. Poor blood flow in the brain can lead to brain cells dying, through mini-strokes and/or larger strokes and vascular dementia is caused over time by accumulated damage to the brain.

Note: It is thought about 10% of all dementias are mixed dementia, that is a mix of Alzheimer’s Disease and vascular dementia.

People with vascular dementia can experience changes to thinking, problem solving and language depending on where the damage to the brain has occurred. Some types of vascular dementia may cause movement or coordination difficulties. People with vascular dementia frequently have heart disease, or risk factors for heart disease such as high cholesterol, diabetes, and high blood pressure (see risk factors below).

The most common causes of vascular dementia are a series of small strokes, called multi-infarct dementia, or microscopic damage to the small blood vessels of the brain – what used to be called atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries. These tend to occur deep within the brain and are known as subcortical dementia.   

Risk factors

There are things you can do to reduce your risk factors for heart disease with support from your GP and/or other health professionals, and this may help prevent the onset, or slow the progression of, vascular dementia. Risks factors you can influence include:
  • smoking
  • high cholesterol
  • high blood pressure
  • physical inactivity
  • diabetes
  • being overweight or obese.
Unfortunately, there are risk factors you can’t control including age (as you get older, your risk of heart disease and vascular dementia increases), gender (men have a higher risk of heart disease, but women’s risk grows and may be equal to men after menopause), ethnic background (people of some origins have higher risk of heart disease including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people), and family history (if someone in your family had heart disease or vascular dementia, speak to your GP about how that affects your risk). 

Minimise your risk

It’s never too late to minimise your risk of vascular dementia and heart disease by ensuring you lead a healthy lifestyle including:
  • eating a low-fat, low-salt and low-sugar diet, with increased plant-based foods and lean protein;
  • exercising for at least 30 minutes every day;
  • minimising stress; and
  • visiting a GP to keep track of your heart health indicators including cholesterol levels, blood pressure, weight, sugar levels and waist circumference.


Your GP will review the risk factors outlined above and may organise specific investigations or referrals if necessary. They can also assess your medications to determine if any adjustments are needed to optimise heart health.

If you have family history of heart disease or vascular dementia, or a chronic disease such as dementia, high blood pressure, diabetes or overweight/obesity, you may qualify for a Chronic Disease Management Plan. This plan can include subsidised visits to allied health practitioners (such as dieticians and exercise physiologists) who can help you to manage lifestyle risk factors.
For more information about Vascular Dementia visit Dementia Australia.
Other relevant articles on the website for people with dementia include:  Other relevant articles for carers include:

Online options to keep socially & mentally active

Being socially and mentally active can help boost your brain health.

But for many people with dementia, taking part in face-to-face activities is difficult, particularly during the time of Covid-19. If you’re not able to get out, now is a great time to get digitally connected (if you’re not already) as there are plenty of online options to keep you socially and mentally active (see below).

Need help with technology?

Be Connected is an Australia wide initiative empowering all Australians to thrive in a digital world. They offer online learning resources and a network of community partners – the Be Connected Network – who can help you develop your digital skills and confidence. Find a local place for friendly help and advice. Some areas are offering online lessons and support. Contact 1300 795 897 (9am-5am AEST).

Options for keeping socially active:

Peer support groups

Dementia Alliance International provide free, online peer-to-peer support groups and social groups for people with dementia who are their members. Visit Dementia Alliance International to become a member and sign-up to one or more of the weekly group meetings which run via Facebook and Zoom (online video conferencing).

Online forums

Dementia Australia offer an online forum where people with dementia, their families, carers and friends can gather and share information. It provides a place to share your stories, connect with others in a similar situation, ask questions and share information.

Playing cards

CarzMania offers more than 25 multi-player card games for free. Games include Canasta, Euchre, Hearts, Spades and Gin Rummy.


If you enjoy singing, consider one of these online options:


For bookworms, consider joining an online book-club where you read and discuss a book of mutual interest. Get in touch with your local library to see if they will delivery paper or audio books. They often host book-clubs and may offer online options.

Having a chat

The Australian Government initiative, FriendLine is for anyone who needs to reconnect or just wants a chat. All conversations with FriendLine are anonymous and their friendly volunteers are ready for a yarn and to share a story or two. Contact: 1800 424 287

Options for keeping mentally active online

Brain training

Brain training involves mental exercises to improve different aspects of memory and thinking. Some people with dementia who’ve practised brain training believed that it helps them. If you are interested in trying computerised brain training here are some companies which offer tailored brain training programs online. You can try some of them for free but there is a monthly fee or you can buy a lifetime package.

For more information read the article on the website 4.7 Be mentally active

Online courses about dementia

People with dementia find online courses helpful and enjoy completing them. The courses are known as Massive Online Open Courses or ‘MOOCS’. MOOCS offer quality information and you can interact online with your lecturers and others doing the course. The University of Tasmania offers free, online 7-week courses about dementia, open to anyone.

Other courses to learn new hobbies and skills

Check the Courses for Seniors website which has portals for each state. It lists many of the local community education colleges and links to University of the Third Age. If you can’t find one in your area, try an online search for community college or U3A in your area. Many of their programs include art, history and general interest topics. Some may offer their programs online.

Keeping active at home

Research consistently shows that people with dementia who exercise regularly are more likely to maintain their cognition, ability to do daily tasks, and live in their own homes.

How well the brain works is affected by blood and oxygen flow to the brain. This means that if your heart and cardiovascular system is working better, your brain will get more blood and oxygen. Physical exercise increases blood and oxygen flow to the brain, also improves cardiovascular health, and also helps you stay strong and mobile so you can go about daily life.

We know exercise can help to improve or maintain memory, thinking, and the daily function of people with dementia. But it’s hard to keep active while daily COVID-19 cases are increasing and most of us are bunkering down at home to reduce our risk of contracting the virus.

Walking outdoors is low risk, especially in non-crowded areas. If you are walking in a more populated area, you can wear a mask while you’re out and about. If you have a garden in or close to your home, you can keep active with weeding, pruning and other garden maintenance. Or you could volunteer with a community garden if there is one nearby, or join your local Bushcare.

If you don’t feel comfortable exercising outdoors, or if the heat or rain prevents you from venturing outside, there are other options to keep active at home (detailed below).

If you are unsure about how much exercise, or the type of exercise you should be doing, read the article 4.2 Exercise to boost your physical health.

Online home exercise options

Exercise Right – Exercise & Sports Science Australia

Exercise Right have put together a range of online workouts for older Australians that you can do in the safety at home, including:

  • Strength and falls prevention
  • Exercises for Osteoporosis
  • Home mobility
  • Strength and balance.

Exercise Right can also connect you to authorised providers of Better Ageing Classes. These  subsidised group classes are offered in selected locations around Australia.

Safe Exercises at Home – Australian Physiotherapy Association

A team of Australian physiotherapists with expertise in physical activity for older people and people with mobility limitations developed a website to support older Australians to stay active safely at home during COVID-19. The Safe Exercise at Home website shares simple, functional exercises and ideas of safe ways for older people to increase activity levels while at home.

Go4Life Exercise Videos – US National Institute on Ageing

The Go4Life exercise videos are available on YouTube and are designed for older adults. The videos vary between 10- and 20-minutes duration including:

  • Flexibility
  • Lower body strength
  • Upper body strength
  • 15-minute workout
  • 10-minute workout

Active Seniors – Active Seniors Health Centre

Active Seniors have a variety of free online exercise classes on YouTube from 30 to 40 minutes duration including:

  • Mobility and flexibility
  • Balanced and coordination
  • Strength classes
  • Dance
  • Aerobic exercise classes
  • Exercise class for Parkinson’s Disease.

You can also pay a subscription to gain access to 300+ exercise class videos in their library.

How to stay active at home – National Ageing Research Institute (NARI)

NARI’s exercise videos were developed by allied health professionals with expertise in exercise for older people. After watching the Introduction to Exercise Video, they have very short videos on:

  • Stretching and flexibility
  • Muscle strengthening
  • Balance
  • Cardiorespiratory fitness.

Stay on Your Feet

Stay on Your Feet is a national program aimed at reducing falls. They have a lot of information about falls prevention, an exercise class finder and a Build Your Balance Exercise video.

Healthy and Active Online – NSW only

Healthy and Active for Life Online is a FREE 10-week healthy lifestyle program for adults aged 60 years and over. The program will help you learn how to make small, sustainable changes in your lifestyle to improve your health. The program covers lots of topics including healthy eating and physical activity. For more information and to register visit Active & Healthy NSW

Dementia advocate raises funds & awareness

For people like Bill Yeates (dementia advocate), the months of lock-down due to Covid-19 made it difficult to participate in his usual social and physical activities. When restrictions eased, Bill and 21 mates, came together to hold the inaugural Ocean Rockpool Tour on Saturday 15 January.

The aim of the tour was to raise awareness about dementia, as well as the impact Covid-19 has had on mental health and wellbeing. The tour involved swimming each of the 14 rockpools in Sydney’s Northern beaches.

After travelling 45 km on the road (and more in the pool), the mates raised considerable awareness and over $8,300 which was donated to local social charities in support of mental health. The bus driver, Peter Farrell, also donated his wages for the day to Dementia Alliance International.

Congratulations to Bill and his friends for this healthy, admirable and important initiative!

 Win one of ten $50 shopping vouchers!

You are invited to provide feedback on our website and other activities as part of the Forward with Dementia program.
  • People with dementia and their supporters, carers and family can participate in a 20-minute survey by clicking on the link in the yellow button below. Everyone who returns a completed survey will go in to a draw to win one of ten $50.00 shopping vouchers.
  • Others involved in dementia diagnosis and care can provide 2-minute feedback via the link directly.
This will help us with further development and future efforts to improve post-diagnostic support for people in the 12-months following a dementia diagnosis.
Take the Evaluation Survey
Thank you in advance for your time!

Interviews for people with dementia and supporters

We would like the opportunity to discuss and understand your experiences of the Forward with Dementia program in more detail, and to understand how the project may have changed your knowledge, attitudes and behaviours related to dementia and dementia care
  • Interviews are online or by phone, they are confidential and will be conducted by an experienced university researcher. Interviews will take about 30-45 minutes.
  • Register for an interview by emailing and our team will contact you to discuss.

Need more information?

Read About Us or email or leave a message on Tel: (02) 9065 7307.

You can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube (see links at the bottom of this email).

Forward with Dementia is part of the COGNISANCE project. The project was awarded by the European Union Joint Program on Neurodegenerative Disorders and in Australia is funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council.

This project has been approved by the UNSW Human Research Ethics Committee. Project number HC210560 and HC 210308.

Copyright © 2022 Cognisance. All rights reserved.

Our mailing address is:
Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing (CHeBA)
UNSW Medicine, School of Psychiatry
Room 305, Level 3, AGSM (G27)
Gate 11, Botany Street NSW 2052 AUSTRALIA

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