Little is known about how ADHD affects older adults. The current consensus among researchers is that ADHD symptoms persist into later life, and that the strategies for managing symptoms are less effective as a person's brain ages. If your strategies don't work as well as they did, here are some great tips for optimizing your ADHD brain.
Monitor ADHD Meds
A physician experienced in treating ADHD in adults should monitor your medications, and you should check in regularly with him. While these medications are safe if used properly, they can cause side effects that are dangerous if not controlled. These side effects include elevated heart rate and blood pressure, insomnia, agitation, hypervigilance, mania, depression, or personality change. These are all reversible, as long as you are under a doctor’s care and you let him know what's going on.
Serve Up Brain Food
A diet low in saturated fats and calories and high in vegetables and fiber may reduce the risk of developing dementia. It can also improve your focus and decrease the mood swings that sugar brings on. ADHD research suggests that your mother may have been ahead of her time when she dispensed cod liver oil to you and told you that fish is "brain food." Take fish oil, if you are not doing so already; it has been shown, in some cases, to improve focus in those with ADHD.
Create Time for Learning
As they age, ADDers, "masters of the now," lose some of their ability to process in the moment. You'll need to rely more on ADD-friendly calendars, apps, and the like to stay organized. In addition, put on your to-do list learning new things, like chess or bridge or Spanish.
Exercise Your Heart and Head
Exercise calms the ADHD brain and benefits your heart. It also reduces the symptoms of anxiety and depression, which often accompany ADHD. Twenty minutes a day of aerobic exercise, such as fast walking, will serve your brain well. But don't stop there. Ballroom dancing or martial arts are fun, and each activity taxes the brain by forcing it to coordinate multiple body parts. This improves focus in ADDers.
Train Your Brain
Some clinicians believe that cognitive stimulation sustains function, reducing the risk of age-related cognitive decline. Computerized training programs have replaced crossword puzzles as the way to keep the brain sharp. Pearson's Cogmed (cogmed.com), Posit Science's Brain Fitness (positscience.com), and Web-based games from Lumosity (lumosity.com) are popular.
Write or call one friend a week, and go out regularly with friends. Put it on your to-do list, next to laundry and grocery shopping. Join a club that centers on a hobby you love. The meetings will motivate you to get out more.
This article appears in the Fall 2012 issue of ADDitude.
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To connect with older adults with ADHD, visit the Seniors With ADHD support group on ADDConnect.