ADHD Increases Your Risk for These Physical Conditions

Physical Conditions Related to ADHD

Although most are familiar with the common signs of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD (also called ADD)—including a short attention span, poor impulse control, hyperactivity, and challenges with staying organized—there is generally less awareness about potential physical conditions that can co-occur. ADHD is often linked to psychiatric disorders, such as depression, and behavioral concerns like substance abuse, but there is also a greater risk surrounding dozens of physical consequences, which can range from weight gain to increased likelihood of traumatic brain injuries.

In a Swedish study published in The Lancet in 2021, researchers examined ADHD and its correlation with 35 physical conditions, split up into eight categories: circulatory, endocrine or metabolic, gastrointestinal, genitourinary, musculoskeletal, nervous system, respiratory, and skin. Surprisingly, of the 35 conditions studied, ADHD increased the risk of 34 of them. With an overall prevalence of adult ADHD at 4.4%, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, it’s important to understand these risks—and for those with ADHD to take steps toward improving their health to help prevent or treat these issues.

ADHD is often linked to psychiatric disorders, such as depression, and behavioral concerns like substance abuse, but there is also greater risk surrounding dozens of physical consequences. Click To Tweet

PHYSICAL CONDITIONS RELATED TO ADHD

Researchers provided a breakdown of the physical conditions the Swedish study analyzed, utilizing millions of patient records over more than 6 decades. The circulatory category included hypertension, ischemic heart disease (heart problems associated with narrowed arteries), pulmonary disease, atrial fibrillation, heart failure, stroke, and peripheral vascular disease. Endocrine/metabolic conditions were type 1 and 2 diabetes, thyroid disorders, obesity, and gout. Gastrointestinal conditions were celiac disease, ulcer or chronic gastritis, acute appendicitis, fatty liver disease, alcohol-related liver disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and gallstone disease.

Under the umbrella of genitourinary were glomerular disease (which affects kidney function), urolithiasis (stones that enter the urinary system), and kidney infections. Musculoskeletal conditions were rheumatoid arthritis, arthrosis (also called osteoarthritis), connective tissue disease, and dorsalgia (back pain). In the nervous system category, researchers looked at Parkinson’s disease, dementia, epilepsy, migraine, and sleep disorders, while respiratory covered asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and the skin conditions studied were eczema and psoriasis.

In this comprehensive study, the researchers found that those with ADHD “had significantly increased risk of all physical conditions except rheumatoid arthritis…compared with individuals without ADHD.” Among the different types of conditions, the strongest ADHD correlations were found with the following:

  • Alcohol-related liver disease
  • Sleep disorders
  • COPD
  • Epilepsy
  • Fatty liver disease
  • Obesity

Before this series of findings, other researchers had discovered similar links between ADHD and physical ailments. A 2017 study performed in Germany on ADHD-affected children from 5 to 14 years old showed that they were more at risk for a host of physical conditions: metabolic disorders, kidney failure, hypertension, obesity, type 1 and 2 diabetes, migraine, asthma, atopic dermatitis, juvenile arthritis, and glaucoma, to name a few. And another 2020 study in Scientific Reports on the association between ADHD and physical health suggested that those with ADHD “are susceptible to neurological problems” as well as digestive issues, potentially due to the role of the gut-brain axis in ADHD symptoms.

HOW TO IMPROVE HEALTH WITH ADHD

Unfortunately, several hallmark signs of ADHD can hamper the practice of engaging in ongoing healthcare, which is especially necessary for this population. For example, because people with ADHD have a tendency to procrastinate, they may put off doctor visits instead of being proactive and scheduling appointments. Poor impulse control can lead to consequences like unhealthy dietary choices or sexually transmitted infections. Lack of organization and/or follow-through can interfere with adhering to medication schedules, following medical advice, or attending necessary subsequent checkups.

Furthermore, with 7 types of ADD, not everyone experiences the same symptoms, so it’s important to narrow down how ADHD affects you—or your loved one—to enact the best health-promoting regimen. Brain SPECT imaging can help identify brain patterns associated with the 7 types of ADD, in order to better target a comprehensive treatment plan. Though certain medications can help with ADHD, there are also alternatives to medicine, as well as natural solutions that can offer advantages without the side effects.

Because such an array of physical health conditions are more likely to develop in people with ADHD, regular health checks are especially important. Lifestyle choices—including a healthy diet, regular exercise, limiting screen time, and avoiding stimulants like nicotine and caffeine—can also improve feelings of well-being and will accumulate to create positive effects over the long haul. After all, researchers have examined the link between ADHD and environmental factors, such as food additives like artificial dyes, the typical Western diet, mineral deficiencies, and even video game and TV exposure, any of which can also make their own contributions to a host of health issues.

Though ADHD presents plenty of psychological challenges that can make everyday routines more challenging, the physical conditions that can crop up—and may go unchecked—are just as serious. Studies have shown that those with ADHD have a lower life expectancy and are more than twice as likely to die early as those without the disorder, both due to accidents and co-existing health conditions. But by remaining a proactive participant in your own healthcare, you can help stave off the dozens of physical effects that are possible accompaniments to this complex condition.

ADD/ADHD and other mental health issues can’t wait. At Amen Clinics, we’re here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, remote clinical evaluations, and video therapy for adults, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or visit our contact page here.

17 Comments »

  1. As a UK based brain health specialist with ADHD I’m particularly glad that Dr Amen has highlighted this research paper and the importance of individuals taking an active and proactive role in their brain health. ADHD is highly genetic and so it’s also vital that ADHD parents gain the support they need to help their children. While there is rarely brain imaging available in the UK, we can still use our understanding of risk factors to reduce the impact on individuals and families.

    Comment by Naomi Glover — June 3, 2022 @ 4:09 AM

  2. Due to most of these symptoms of ADHD I’m not able to keep a job, so no health care, feeling horrible and can do nothing about it.

    Comment by Heike Hall — June 3, 2022 @ 4:29 AM

  3. Thanks for a great article.

    Comment by Timothy Lee — June 3, 2022 @ 5:03 AM

  4. Thank you for this article, it really opened my eyes to better help my patients/members take care of themselves.

    Comment by Maudlyn — June 3, 2022 @ 5:24 AM

  5. Do you have any clinics in Portland Oregon area?

    Comment by Bridget Pereira — June 3, 2022 @ 6:28 AM

  6. Hello Bridget, at this time we have 10 locations nationwide: https://amenclinics.com/locations/. For more information, or resources/referrals closer to you, please contact our Care Coordinators: https://amenclinics.com/schedule-visit/

    Comment by Amen Clinics — June 3, 2022 @ 8:28 AM

  7. One assumes from reading this ( although it is not clear) that these conditions of persons with ADHD are speaking of persons who are not receiving treatment or medication management.

    Comment by Mickey Shannon — June 3, 2022 @ 10:32 AM

  8. Thank you for this article calling attention to the wide range of health problems which frequently co-occur with ADHD in adults. Many of these, such as alcohol-related liver disease and obesity have significant lifestyle factors, while others such as Type 1 diabetes and Epilepsy may more often occur through autoimmune or prenatal factors. Sleep disorders and COPD may or may not be lifestyle related, though often environmentally mediated.

    I was aware of earlier research pointing to reduced life expectancy and significantly heightened incidence of mortality due to accidents, suicide and homicide associated with ADHD.

    Without minimizing the risks associated with any medication, and the often expressed concerns of parents about medicating their child’s ADHD, it would be ironic if these serious long-term risks of increased disease and mortality associated with ADHD did not add balance and urgency to the need to diagnose, treat and educate ADHD children, adults and their families on adopting healthy and protective lifestyle and environmental habits to reduce the incidence of diseases and accidents amongst the ADHD population.

    Comment by Katie O'Brien — June 3, 2022 @ 4:51 PM

  9. I bet Dr. Amen could help the homelessness with a triage program. He could create SPECT program to quickly place individuals into categorical situations of care with instructions for their diet, etc. Sacramento is failing to solve the homelessness problem and this could turn it around.

    Comment by Ronnie Jeanne Amato — June 3, 2022 @ 6:38 PM

  10. In my 40 years as a teacher of students with disabilities, I have observed the various ways ADDHD is manifested. Additionally,, I have never met a student diagnosed with ADDHD who did NOT have allergies

    Comment by Deborah Blankenship — June 4, 2022 @ 3:23 AM

  11. So wish you had a facility closer to Macon.

    Comment by Sarah Rives — June 4, 2022 @ 6:48 AM

  12. Trouble is, I’m not showing this to my ADHD son because it’s so depressing and would be the self-fulfilling prophecy….no point in doing anything positive, etct., etc.

    Comment by millicent hughes — June 4, 2022 @ 7:05 AM

  13. Interesting I can identify with most of the results (disorders) of being an undiagnosed ADHD, and generally untreated I started with a Psychiatrist at age 14, for being anti- and non-social, and skipping school and hitchhiking around the country (Western US) I was school and social phobic, but a perfectionist work-oholic (also an addict and alcoholic) Tried to amass some wealth to survive the different ‘handicaps’, and be more attractive, but still I end up at age 80 feeling a bankrupt loser, left out, and persecuted, fined, and conned by society and its authority

    Comment by garth miller — June 4, 2022 @ 8:52 AM

  14. I am a physician with adhd and a life time of heavy metal issues…..they are related….may be neuro-excitation to nano-particals in general….the snow globe is being shaken up even more….lol.

    Comment by Margaret Millar — June 4, 2022 @ 9:01 AM

  15. I believe it is also more common in the hypermobility disordered people…I have Ehlers Danlos syndrome, and mild POTS and “sensitivity” to many things recently. I found information at RCCX Theory of disease fascinating.

    Comment by Margaret Millar — June 4, 2022 @ 9:04 AM

  16. This article, while helpful to keep in mind, is so frustrating and disheartening. I hate adhd and the impact it has on so many lives. Adhd affects so many people. Where is it coming from. What is causing it. Let’s find a cure instead of constantly finding ways to only treat the symptoms. With so many people suffering from adhd, you would think there is a root cause or a main factor that causes adhd. I think people are approaching adhd incorrectly. None of the ways to treat adhd actually cures adhd. The approach to adhd and the treatment protocol out there is a joke. It’s only a bandaid to help with symptoms and it’s so difficult for people with adhd to get help and medications because the medication is so regulated. I feel so bad for every person I know that suffers from adhd. It’s a terrible disability/disease. This article makes me feel even worse for my loved ones that have adhd!!

    Comment by Stacey — June 4, 2022 @ 9:04 PM

  17. I am sorry but telling us all this frightening stuff is not helpful at all. This is because you mention all sorts of diseases and then give a reference to a study that explains it – and then when you open the link to this study, one has to open account to read it?.. are we seriously expected to do this? If you tell us about all these horrible things then at least explain properly to us why eg ADHD and heart disease are linked? Or how can watching tv make my life shorter? It would be helpful if you explain what you claim and then offer some real solutions. Your super brain scans are super expensive and I live in the UK so no good to me. You need to to explain every single disease and tell us why there is a link with ADHD – eg with ADHD one may have a sugar addiction and for that reason become obese and so your risk of diabetes and certain cancers may increase. Why is the risk of kidney disease high, or juvenile arthritis? Without you explaining things properly and telling us how we can prevent such illnesses the best way possible, it makes this a useless article and it feels like all you want to do is sell your scans – I look forward to your feedback

    Comment by Inez Furnace — June 9, 2022 @ 6:02 AM

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