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Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is well-known in children. In fact, there are over six million children under the age of 18 diagnosed with ADHD in the U.S.

What’s often overlooked is the number of adults that are affected by ADHD. Surprisingly, diagnoses among adults are growing four times faster than among children!

This is concerning for numerous reasons, but it’s especially worrying when it comes to your memory. That’s because a new study suggests adults who were recently diagnosed with ADHD were much more likely to suffer from dementia.

If that’s you, don’t worry. Here’s what you can do about it.

ADHD is a neurological disorder with inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity as common symptoms. It normally starts in childhood, and most children who are diagnosed will continue to have the disorder through their adult years.

However, the condition can also begin in adulthood. Interestingly, adult-onset ADHD is different from the childhood version as it presents itself with different social, psychological, and genetic profiles.

Despite being a distinct disorder from childhood ADHD, little is known about the adult version. What’s more, less than one adult in five is ever diagnosed with or even treated for adult ADHD.

Adult ADHD Is Rarely Studied

Researchers from the University of Calgary in Canada wanted to see if adult ADHD increased the risk of dementia, so earlier this year they carried out the first systematic review of human studies. However, because adult ADHD is so under researched, they could only find seven studies from which to conduct their review!

They concluded that “a diagnosis of ADHD may be a risk factor for the later development of a neurodegenerative disease or dementia.” But they couldn’t say from such a small number of diverse studies how much of a risk factor it was. They suggested more robust research is needed.

So, scientists from the U.S. and Israel took up the challenge. Their findings stopped researchers dead in their tracks.

Almost Triples Dementia Risk

For their study the scientists analyzed electronic health records of 109,218 Israelis aged between 51 and 70 who were free from ADHD and dementia when the study began. Researchers followed them for 17 years during which time 730 (0.3 percent) received a diagnosis of ADHD and 7,726 (7.1 percent) received a diagnosis of dementia.

The researchers found 13.2 percent of those with ADHD received a diagnosis of dementia compared to only seven percent of those without ADHD—that’s nearly double. Since adults with ADHD are more likely to be smokers and have health issues such as high blood pressure and depression that also impact the risk of dementia, the researchers took these among a total of 18 factors into account.

Before adjusting for the other factors, those with ADHD had more than 3½ times the risk of succumbing to dementia. After adjusting for the 18 confounding factors, the risk was reduced but still remained very high – a 2.77-fold increase in risk.

Medication Might Help

Interestingly, those who received psychostimulant medication such as Ritalin or Adderall to treat their ADHD had no increased risk of dementia.

The researchers, writing in JAMA Network Open in October, report that although “psychostimulants are cognitive enhancers hypothesized to reduce dementia risk”, they believe there are too many unknowns and variables to consider before it can be concluded that ADHD patients were spared dementia because of their medication.

The reason why ADHD poses a risk for dementia is unknown, but the researchers think it’s because neurological factors that give rise to ADHD mean sufferers have less cognitive or brain reserve, so they aren’t able to compensate for the normal vascular (such as poor circulation) and neurodegenerative changes that come with aging.

How to Mitigate The Risk

First author Stephen Levine from the University of Haifa told the Washington Post: “We don’t know much about adult ADHD, and we have to, as a society ask ourselves, ‘Shouldn’t we know about the disease entity?’”

He added that “policymakers, caregivers, patients and clinicians, as well as individuals, with ADHD or without, who suspect they have it should consider the reliable monitoring of ADHD in adult old age.”

Sara Becker, co senior author of the systematic review previously referred to, said that ADHD is another risk factor for dementia that can be added to a long list. However, “it’s not that everyone who has ADHD in their adult life is going to get dementia. If you take care of yourself, like anyone else in the general population, you can mitigate this risk.”

We couldn’t agree more. And that means keeping physically active, socially engaged, and eating healthy, whole-food diet rich in lean meats, lots of fruit and vegetables, whole-grains and nutritious fats. It’s also important to choose the right supplements to protect and nourish your brain such as Brain Vitality Plus, which contains a patented form of Whole Coffee Fruit Extract called Neurofactor™, which has been shown to support your body’s production of BDNF, a critical protein to support attention, focus, and brain health.

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