There is increasing evidence that cerebrovascular dysfunction plays a role not only in vascular causes of cognitive impairment but also in Alzheimer's disease (AD). Vascular risk factors and AD impair the structure and function of cerebral blood vessels and associated cells (neurovascular unit), effects mediated by vascular oxidative stress and inflammation. Injury to the neurovascular unit alters cerebral blood flow regulation, depletes vascular reserves, disrupts the blood-brain barrier, and reduces the brain's repair potential, effects that amplify the brain dysfunction and damage exerted by incident ischemia and coexisting neurodegeneration. Clinical-pathological studies support the notion that vascular lesions aggravate the deleterious effects of AD pathology by reducing the threshold for cognitive impairment and accelerating the pace of the dementia. In the absence of mechanism-based approaches to counteract cognitive dysfunction, targeting vascular risk factors and improving cerebrovascular health offers the opportunity to mitigate the impact of one of the most disabling human afflictions.