Vascular cognitive impairment (VCI) comprises a range of cognitive disorders related to cerebral vessel disease and has generally replaced the term multi-infarct dementia. Despite the heterogeneity of the VCI construct, some clinical patterns can be discerned, which enable subtypes, such as mixed dementia and VCI-no dementia, to be recognised. Diagnostic criteria for vascular dementia do not encompass the full range of the VCI construct, and clinical investigators now recognise the need for harmonised standards to study the many manifestations of VCI seen in daily practice and to inform the development of diagnostic criteria. Although executive dysfunction is a recognised feature of VCI, some data suggest a less exclusive role than was previously proposed. VCI might be preventable, although the evidence for this is not as complete as it is for the prevention of stroke. Future studies into specific therapies for VCI will need to consider the clinical features and outcomes carefully.