Study: Cardiovascular Disease Twice as Likely in Adults with ADHD
Adults with ADHD face an elevated risk of cardiovascular disease, including cardiac arrest, hemorrhagic stroke, and peripheral vascular diseases, according to a large observational study conducted in Sweden.
November 13, 2022
Cardiovascular disease is twice as likely to develop in adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) than it is in the neurotypical population, according to a large observational study published in the journal World Psychiatry.
The research studied the link between 20 different cardiovascular diseases and ADHD when it was separated from other known risk factors such as type 2 diabetes, obesity, smoking, sleep problems, and mental disorders.
Researchers at Karolinska Institute and Örebro University in Sweden based their findings on data from a national registry of more than one million Swedish adults without pre-existing cardiovascular diseases born between 1941 and 1983. The registry included about 37,000 people with ADHD.
After an average of 11.8 years of follow-up, 38% of individuals with ADHD had at least one diagnosis of cardiovascular disease, compared with 24% of those without ADHD. The association was somewhat stronger in men than in women. 1
Adults with ADHD were at high risk for cardiac arrest, hemorrhagic stroke, and peripheral vascular diseases. Additionally, the study revealed that psychiatric comorbidities, such as food and substance use problems, elevated the risk of cardiovascular disease in patients with ADHD.1
“Using individuals without ADHD as a reference group, we found that the relative risk of cardiovascular diseases was slightly higher among individuals with ADHD plus any psychiatric comorbidity, compared with ADHD only,” researchers said. “Specifically, an additional increase in the risk of cardiovascular diseases was found among those with comorbid depressive disorder, personality disorders, anxiety disorders, substance use disorders, and eating disorders, compared with ADHD only.”
On a positive note, stimulants, antidepressants, and anti-anxiety medications were not shown to elevate the risk of cardiovascular disease in people with ADHD.
However, because the study was observational, the findings cannot establish a cause-and-effect association. Additional studies are needed to further explore the mechanisms underlying the association between ADHD and cardiovascular diseases.
1Li, L., Chang, Z., Sun, J., Garcia-Argibay, M., Du Rietz, E., Dobrosavljevic, M., Brikell, I., Jernberg, T., Solmi, M., Cortese, S. and Larsson, H. (2022). Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder as a Risk Factor for Cardiovascular Diseases: A Nationwide Population-Based Cohort Study. World Psychiatry. 21: 452-459. https://doi.org/10.1002/wps.21020