Findings from a new study underscore the need to monitor cardiovascular health in people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), according to researchers.
They found that adults with ADHD were more than twice as likely to develop at least one form of cardiovascular disease (CVD) than the rest of the population.
“Clinicians need to carefully consider psychiatric comorbidity and lifestyle factors to help reduce CVD risk in individuals with ADHD”
ADHD has a global prevalence of around 2.5% in adults, noted the researchers from the Karolinska Institutet and Orebro University, who were behind a large observational study.
They investigated links between ADHD and 20 different cardiovascular diseases, when separated from other known risk factors such as type 2 diabetes, obesity, smoking, sleep problems and mental disorders.
Their study, published in the journal World Psychiatry, looked at national registry data on more than five million Swedish adults, including around 37,000 people with ADHD.
After an average 11.8 years of follow-up after ADHD diagnosis, the researchers found that 38% of adults with ADHD had at least one diagnosis of CVD, compared with 24% of those without it.
Risks were elevated for all types of CVD and especially high for cardiac arrest, haemorrhagic stroke and peripheral vascular diseases. The link was stronger in men than in women.
Some psychiatric comorbidities, especially eating and substance use disorders, significantly increased the risk of CVD in people with ADHD, the study found.
However, it found treatment with stimulants and other psychiatric drugs, such as antidepressants and anxiety-reducing medication, did not materially affect the association between ADHD and CVD.
The study authors said: “These data suggest that ADHD is an independent risk factor for a wide range of cardiovascular diseases.
“They highlight the importance of carefully monitoring cardiovascular health and developing age-appropriate and individualised strategies to reduce the cardiovascular risk in individuals with ADHD.”
“Clinicians need to carefully consider psychiatric comorbidity and lifestyle factors to help reduce the CVD risk in individuals with ADHD,” added one of the study’s authors, Henrik Larsson, professor at the School of Medical Sciences, Örebro University, and affiliated researcher at the Karolinska Institutet.
“But we also need more research to explore plausible biological mechanisms, such as shared genetic components for ADHD and cardiovascular disease,” he said.
The researchers noted the study had some limitations, including a lack of data on some lifestyle-related factors, such as diet and physical activity, that could impact the association.