Study Reveals ADHD May Be A Risk Factor For Cardiovascular Disease

Approximately 2.8% of adults 18 to 44 in the world live with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, according to the ADHD Institute. Cardiovascular diseases were responsible for almost one-third of deaths in 2019, making them the predominant killer worldwide (via the World Health Organization). But what do these two conditions have in common? Well, according to a recent study in World Psychiatry, they're significantly linked. The study tracked more than five million adults in Sweden for about 12 years with no previous history of cardiovascular disease. Among the people who lived with ADHD, 38% of them were diagnosed with cardiovascular disease during the study. Only 23% of those without ADHD developed cardiovascular disease.

After adjusting for sex and age, the researchers concluded that people with ADHD are more than twice as likely to develop a cardiovascular disease than those without ADHD. The study also considered factors such as education, type 2 diabetes, obesity, sleep problems, smoking, and high cholesterol. Although adjusting for these factors somewhat weakened the link between ADHD and cardiovascular disease, the association was still significant. Heart diseases like cardiac arrest, stroke, and arteriosclerosis were most likely to be linked to ADHD.

Some factors put people more at risk for cardiovascular disease

The study found that males and adults 18 to 30 who had been diagnosed with ADHD had a higher risk for cardiovascular disease. The risk for cardiovascular disease also increases if a person has an ADHD diagnosis and other psychiatric disorders such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse, or eating disorders. Those who had an eating disorder or substance abuse disorder combined with ADHD had the strongest risk for cardiovascular disease.

The researchers noted that some ADHD medications can elevate blood pressure and heart rate, so they conducted a separate analysis to factor out people taking them. This analysis still found a connection between ADHD and cardiovascular disease. Because people who have a family history of cardiovascular disease are at a higher risk, the researchers also considered how this might influence the results. By excluding people with a family history of cardiovascular disease, the connection between ADHD and cardiovascular disease still holds.

The researchers said that it's important for doctors to be aware of how ADHD can put people at greater risk for cardiovascular disease, especially by screening young adults and males who are more at risk, per U.S. News & World Report.