Does ADHD increase the risk of cardiovascular disease?

  • A new study reveals that ADHD may be a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
  • Researchers followed more than 37,000 people with ADHD for nearly 12 years to see if they developed cardiovascular disease.
  • While people with ADHD all had an increased risk of cardiac diagnosis, the risk was particularly high for cardiac arrest, stroke and peripheral vascular disease.

A new study reveals that attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

While experts have long known that certain psychiatric conditions can increase cardiovascular disease risk, there have been few studies on the potential link between ADHD and cardiovascular disease risk.

A group of researchers from Karolinska Institutet and Örebro University in Sweden has just published a study in Global Psychiatry who assesses this risk. The study was funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program.

The national population-based cohort study looked at national register information for 5 million Swedish adults, including 37,000 with ADHD. The researchers followed them for nearly 12 years to see if any cardiovascular disease developed. (Those with pre-existing cardiovascular problems were excluded from the study.)

About 38% of the group with ADHD had at least one diagnosis of heart disease, compared to 24% of those without ADHD.

Although the increase in heart disease diagnoses was seen in both men and women, men with ADHD appeared to have a higher risk than men without ADHD. Given that ADHD is diagnosed more often in men than in women, and that men are more likely to suffer from various types of cardiovascular disease, it’s unclear whether this could be a significant finding.

While people with ADHD all had an increased risk of cardiac diagnosis, the risk was particularly high for cardiac arrest, stroke and peripheral vascular disease.

The increased risk was also seen in people who were being treated for their ADHD with stimulant medications. The study authors noted that treatment with certain types of stimulants is known to increase blood pressure and heart rate, also factors associated with heart disease, but this could not entirely explain the increased risk.

Additionally, an increased risk of heart disease was also found in those who did not take these drugs. People with ADHD who took psychiatric medications other than stimulants had the same level of risk as those who did not. ADHD combined with certain other psychiatric conditions, including eating disorders and substance abuse, resulted in a higher rate of cardiac diagnoses than in the group with ADHD alone.

Although the study appears to show a link, since it is only an observational study and the first of its kind, the results cannot be taken for granted and further research is needed.

Dr Chris Barnes, Registered Clinical Psychologist, said: “I think it will be more common for prescribers to have discussions about heart health with their patients who have an ADHD diagnosis. Existing patients with ADHD diagnoses should raise these concerns with their providers to have their questions addressed. »

“This was a correlational study that does not prove cause and effect,” says Myles Cooley, Ph.D., a licensed, board-certified psychologist in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.

Mitchell Clionsky, Ph.D., a board-certified clinical neuropsychologist located in Springfield, Massachusetts, agrees. “The results should be replicated in other countries and other ethnic and racial groups.” He said he thought the study was well done overall and provided a good basis for further research. “I am really impressed with this study.

The authors used a large patient population over four decades of data, included a full range of circulatory conditions, and did an excellent job of examining how typical medical, psychiatric, and lifestyle factors associated with vascular disease did not create not the link between ADHD and this family of medical problems.

Other factors in the development of cardiovascular disease, such as diet and exercise, were not included in the statistics. The study authors emphasized that the study only showed correlation, not causation.

The overall young age of the people studied (the median age of the subjects at the end of the observation period was 50.49 years) may also have been a factor, as there may be other cases as the subjects age. Since people with ADHD are more likely to see doctors and other healthcare professionals as part of their treatment, there may simply be more people in the non-ADHD group who have undiagnosed heart disease. . If there is an association, it would follow the same pattern as several other psychiatric conditions that have shown increased cardiovascular risk, such as depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

More studies are needed to further its findings, but this study is the first to show a potential link between ADHD and heart disease. Its authors suggest that cardiovascular screening should be part of routine ADHD monitoring.

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