Does ADHD Raise Your Risk for Alzheimer’s Disease?

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ADD/ADHD is associated with a host of challenges that can impact your everyday life. And according to two recent studies, it appears that having adult attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), also known as attention-deficit disorder (ADD), may also increase the likelihood of dementia later than life.

Researchers found that adults with ADHD have a 2.77-fold greater risk of dementia than people without the condition. Click To Tweet

Indeed, adults diagnosed with ADD/ADHD are nearly three times more likely to develop some form of dementia than adults without the condition, a large-scale observational study found.

Additionally, a six-year study following adults with genetic markers for ADHD revealed an association with increased cognitive impairment and markers for Alzheimer’s disease.

While much more remains to be researched and understood, this association between ADHD and dementia underscores the importance of recognizing, diagnosing, and treating adult ADHD. It also alerts adults diagnosed with the disorder to be watchful for signs of dementia as they age.

ABOUT ADULT ADHD AND DEMENTIA

ADD/ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by pervasive attention problems, and often impulsive or hyperactive behavior too.

While it is commonly known as a disorder affecting children and teens, it affects about 5.4% of adult men and 3.2% of adult women as well, according to the Institute of Mental Health. What’s more, fewer than 20% of adults with the disorder are properly diagnosed or treated, experts report.

The signs of ADHD manifest differently in adults, which too often allows the disorder to persist unrecognized. In fact, brain SPECT imaging work at Amen Clinics has revealed that there are 7 types of ADD/ADHD.

Dementia is a general term that refers to an entire category of progressive neurodegenerative diseases that impact brain function, which may lead to memory loss, trouble with language, compromised cognition, and changes to personality and behavior.

More than 55 million people around the world have one of several types of dementia. It is among the world’s leading causes of disability and mortality. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common and recognized form of dementia. About 6.5 million U.S. adults are estimated to have Alzheimer’s disease and that figure is expected to double by 2050.

The biggest risk factor for dementia is aging. Thus, dementia usually develops later in life, typically in one’s mid-60s or later. Approximately 300,000 Americans under the age of 65 (sometimes in their 30s and 40s) have early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Frontotemporal dementia is usually diagnosed between age 45 and 60.

HOW ADHD RELATES TO DEMENTIA

When ADD/ADHD goes undiagnosed and untreated in adults, it can have a detrimental effect on many areas of life. It’s important to understand that mental health disorders that negatively affect the mind also have adverse impacts on the brain, and there’s a marked brain component to every disorder.

ADD/ADHD is associated with lower activity in the cerebellum, prefrontal cortex, and basal ganglia. Hallmark ADHD symptoms such as short attention span, being easily distracted, disorganization, restlessness, the tendency to procrastinate, and impulsivity tend to make afflicted individuals more vulnerable to a host of disorders.

These individuals are more likely to be depressed, experience traumatic brain injury (TBI), and to have addictions to food, alcohol, drugs, and tobacco (smoking). Any one of these conditions comes with its own set of challenges, but they all also increase the chances of dementia later in life.

Since there’s a level of brain compromise with ADD/ADHD, older individuals have a double whammy of lower brain and cognitive resilience plus the higher dementia risk that comes with aging.

ADHD AND DEMENTIA RESEARCH

Researchers are just beginning to uncover and understand the association ADHD has with the development of dementia. An Argentinian study published in the European Journal of Neurology in 2011 first got the attention of scientists when it found an association between ADD/ADHD and a certain form of dementia called Lewy Body dementia.

The two more recent studies are the latest adding to this body of research on ADHD and dementia. The first is a cohort study published in October 2023 in JAMA Network Open, involving more than 100,000 participants.

The participants—aged 51 to 70 and born between 1933 and 1952—entered the cohort on January 1, 2003 without an ADD/ADHD or dementia diagnosis. They were followed until February 28, 2020. The researchers evaluated the data collected from 2022 to 2023.

After adjusting for multiple confounding factors, the researchers found that adults with ADD/ADHD have a 2.77-fold greater risk of dementia than people without the condition.

Interestingly, participants who were diagnosed with ADD/ADHD and treated with psychostimulant medication showed no clear increased risk of dementia. This appears to reflect separate research that indicated ADHD treatment with prescription stimulant medication might improve several aspects of cognition.

However, the scientists involved with this newer study caution against making any conclusions and encourage more research on how medications may impact dementia risk. They also encourage natural ways to treat ADHD.   

The second study conducted by University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine researchers involved 212 individuals between the ages of 55 to 90 with high genetic risk of ADD/ADHD.

The participants were evaluated regularly over a six-year period.

The data revealed an association between having genetic markers for ADD/ADHD and cognitive deterioration and the development of Alzheimer’s Disease.

While the findings again highlight an ADHD-dementia association, the study’s authors encouraged further research on clinically confirmed ADHD participants and the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

RECOGNIZE ADD/ADHD AND DEMENTIA SYMPTOMS

Until more is understood, adults showing ADD/ADHD symptoms are encouraged to get proper diagnosis and treatment. There are many effective natural approaches to treating ADD/ADHD, including:

  • Psychotherapy
  • Neurofeedback
  • Meditation
  • Vigorous exercise
  • Goal setting
  • Consuming a higher-protein diet
  • Taking well-studied nutraceuticals

Additionally, if you or someone you know is experiencing repeated memory loss problems or other signs of dementia, it’s important to get evaluated as soon as possible.

ADD/ADHD, memory loss, dementia, 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, clinical evaluations, and therapy for adults, teens, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or visit our contact page here.

1 Comment »

  1. Аwesome post.

    Comment by champagne — January 25, 2024 @ 11:00 PM

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