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ADHD Now, Dementia Later?

Adults With ADHD Symptoms Have Tripled Risk of Dementia Later, Study Finds

ADHD and Dementia: Exploring the Link

Although the study doesn't prove cause and effect between ADHD and dementia, it is valuable, Leverenz says. 

"The importance in this study ... is that we are trying to identify early symptoms and characteristics that may predict who is at high risk of developing this disease," he says of LBD.

That way, when a preventive treatment does become available, he says, ''We can help these people."

An ADHD expert who also reviewed the study for WebMD says the conclusion is backward. Instead of saying that people with ADHD symptoms are three times as likely to get LBD, the researchers should have concluded that "patients with LBD had three times the rate of ADHD symptoms," says L. Eugene Arnold, MD, professor emeritus of psychiatry at Ohio State University's Nisonger Center and a longtime ADHD researcher.

But Arnold says the link found is worth exploring and that the neurotransmitter problems thought to be involved in ADHD in fact may also be involved in the dementia.

Like other experts, Arnold says that retrospective studies are inherently flawed, as people must recall their histories or those of loved ones.

"The authors tried to obtain ratings of ADHD during childhood from knowledgeable informants of the patients and controls, and much hinges on the accuracy of these reports, and on their interpretation," says Douglas Galasko, MD, professor of neurosciences at the University of California San Diego, who also reviewed the study. He says the next step is replication of the findings by other researchers.

ADHD and Dementia: What to Do Now?

Meanwhile, is there anything an adult with ADHD might do to minimize later risk of dementia?

"I always tell people we don't know how to prevent this disease," Leverenz says of LBD. "However, we do know that people who maintain their general health -- the old boring stuff, exercise, proper diet -- they seem to be able to resist the effect of the disease better."

Arnold agrees. "Those two things will do a lot to prevent or delay most diseases."

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