Adult ADHD May Increase Dementia Risk

Adults with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are nearly three times more likely to develop dementia than adults without the condition, a new study finds.

Although more than 3% of American adults have ADHD, research on this group is limited. The new study published in JAMA Network Open suggests that the condition may increase the risk of dementia, including Alzheimer's disease.

However, the good news is that treatment with psychostimulants may help with both — managing ADHD and curbing the risk of the neurodegenerative disorder.

Researchers at the Alzheimer's Research Center at Rutgers Brain Health Institute (BHI) followed more than 100,000 older adults in Israel — with and without ADHD — from 2003 to 2020.

They found a significant association between the presence of adult ADHD and dementia, even after taking account of other risk factors for dementia, such as cardiovascular conditions.

According to the researchers, ADHD in adults may materialize as a neurological process that reduces their ability to compensate for the effects of cognitive decline later in life.

"Physicians, clinicians and caregivers who work with older adults should monitor ADHD symptoms and associated medications," said Abraham Reichenberg, a professor at the Department of Psychiatry at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and senior author of the study.

Additionally, the research suggests ADHD treatment incorporating psychostimulants may help reduce the risk of dementia in adults with ADHD because psychostimulants modify the trajectory of cognitive impairment. However, further studies are necessary to determine the impact of medications on adult patients with ADHD and how they could affect the risk.

Managing ADHD and dementia

Some adults with ADHD are unaware they have the condition. They may feel it is impossible to get organized to stick to a job. They can find simple daily tasks challenging, such as preparing to leave the house for work or arriving on time. Adults with ADHD can also seem restless and may try to do several things at the same time, often unsuccessfully.

If you think you may have ADHD, talk about it with your healthcare provider. Treatment for the condition includes medications, psychotherapy, and skill development. Additionally, ADHD symptoms in adults can also be improved with healthy lifestyle habits.

  • Get a good night's sleep by developing a regular bedtime, avoiding screen time for the last hour before going to bed, avoiding caffeine after lunch, and trying relaxation exercises.
  • Follow a diet rich in protein and consider supplementation with vitamins and minerals that support healthy brain functioning, such as vitamin B12, essential fatty acids, and vitamin D.
  • Engage in aerobic exercise.
  • Practice stress management, such as mindfulness and meditation practices.

Michal Schnaider Beeri, director of the Herbert and Jacqueline Krieger Klein Alzheimer's Research Center at Rutgers BHI and co-author of the study, says that it's uncertain if adopting healthy habits to manage ADHD would reduce the heightened risk of dementia, as the study is observational, not a clinical trial.

She tells Healthnews, "However, ongoing clinical trials targeting Alzheimer's prevention through lifestyle changes indicate that managing cardiovascular risk factors like diabetes and obesity, along with boosting protective factors such as physical, social, and cognitive activities, can notably delay cognitive decline."

While adult ADHD may contribute to developing dementia, it is not the only risk factor for the neurodegenerative disorder. Keep your brain healthy by quitting smoking, reducing alcohol intake, maintaining a healthy weight, and being physically active.


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