ADHD May Increase Risk of Dementia–Functional Medicine Can Help

ADHD, or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, is a neurodevelopmental condition often associated with children and adolescents. It's characterized by symptoms like inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity. While traditionally seen as a childhood disorder, recent research has unveiled a surprising and concerning connection between ADHD and cognitive decline in later life, particularly an increased risk of Alzheimer's disease.

In this article, we'll delve into this emerging link and explore why functional medicine may hold the key to protecting against neurodegenerative disorders.

Learn more about conditions we treat: Alzheimer’s disease

The Surprising Connection: ADHD and Alzheimer's Disease

A study published in European Psychiatry sent shockwaves through the medical community. This comprehensive study followed over 3 million individuals for several decades, starting in childhood and continuing into their 60s. The findings were startling: individuals diagnosed with ADHD during childhood were more likely to develop Alzheimer's disease later in life.

The study found that those with childhood ADHD had a higher risk of developing Alzheimer's disease compared to those without ADHD. The risk was especially elevated among individuals who had been diagnosed with both ADHD and a comorbid psychiatric condition, such as depression or anxiety, during childhood (1). 

The reasons behind this connection are complex and multifaceted. Researchers speculate that individuals with ADHD may have structural and functional brain differences that persist into adulthood, making them more vulnerable to neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer's disease.

Furthermore, ADHD is often associated with difficulties in executive functions like planning, organization, and impulse control. These difficulties might contribute to lifestyle factors, such as poor diet, lack of exercise, and chronic stress, which are known risk factors for Alzheimer's disease (2). 

Related: New Clues About Alzheimer’s Risk

Functional Medicine: A New Approach to Protecting Brain Health

So, what can you do to protect your brain health if you have ADHD? One approach is to explore functional medicine. Functional medicine is a type of healthcare that looks at the underlying causes of health problems and seeks to address them through a holistic approach. In the case of cognitive decline, functional medicine practitioners may focus on reducing inflammation, improving gut health, and supporting mitochondrial function.

Chronic inflammation can damage brain cells and exacerbate cognitive decline (3). Functional medicine practitioners may recommend dietary changes, such as reducing sugar and processed foods, to address inflammation. They may also suggest supplements that have anti-inflammatory properties, such as omega-3 fatty acids and curcumin.

Improving gut health is another important factor in reducing the risk of mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer's disease. Studies have shown that the health of the gut microbiome is closely linked to brain health (4). A healthy gut microbiome can reduce inflammation, improve immune function, and even produce neurotransmitters that are important for cognitive function. Functional medicine practitioners may test for underlying digestive imbalances, infections, or yeast overgrowth.

Supporting mitochondrial function is crucial for maintaining optimal cognitive function. Mitochondria are the “powerhouses” of cells, responsible for producing the energy that cells need to function. Mitochondrial dysfunction, regardless of it being a trigger or a consequence of cognitive impairment, is related to the collection of Alzheimer's disease pathologies (5). Functional medicine practitioners may recommend supplements that support mitochondrial function, such as CoQ10, as well as lifestyle changes such as regular exercise.

Read more: Early Onset Dementia is On the Rise: Here’s Why & How to Protect Your Brain

Learn about becoming a new patient

Strategies to Support Your Cognitive Health

Personalized Nutrition

Functional medicine recognizes that diet plays a pivotal role in brain health & reducing the risk of cognitive impairment, even in those who may have an elevated genetic risk. A diet rich in antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, and nutrient-dense foods can support cognitive function and protect against neurodegenerative disorders in older adults (6). Individualized nutrition plans tailored to a person’s unique needs can optimize brain health.

Read: ADHD Root Causes in Adults & Children: Diet, Chemistry, & Environment

Hormone Balance

Hormones play a significant role in brain function. Functional medicine practitioners assess and balance hormone levels to promote optimal brain health. Hormonal imbalances in older adults, especially in women, can exacerbate cognitive decline. One study found that menopausal women were more likely to suffer from mild cognitive impairment than men of the same age (7). 

Shop: Test Hormones at Home with the OneDay Hormone Check

Stress Reduction

Chronic stress is a known risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease, and can also worsen ADHD symptoms (8). Functional medicine emphasizes stress reduction techniques such as mindfulness, meditation, and relaxation therapies to protect the brain from the damaging effects of chronic stress.

Gut-Brain Connection

Emerging research highlights the intricate connection between gut health and brain health. Functional medicine addresses gut imbalances, promotes a healthy gut microbiome, and recognizes the role of the gut-brain axis in potentially reducing the risk of neurodegenerative disease.

Learn more about how gut health affects risk of neurodegenerative disease.

Targeted Supplementation

Functional medicine practitioners may recommend targeted supplements to support cognitive health. These supplements may include antioxidants, omega-3s, vitamins, and minerals that nourish the brain. In some cases, proper supplementation can reduce cognitive deficits in older adults.

Lifestyle Modifications

Lifestyle factors, such as regular exercise, reducing inflammatory foods, adequate sleep, and mental stimulation, are essential for brain health. Functional medicine emphasizes the importance of a holistic approach to lifestyle to protect against cognitive decline.

Early Detection and Prevention

Functional medicine practitioners focus on early detection and prevention of cognitive decline. Regular cognitive assessments, along with personalized strategies, can help individuals reduce their risk of neurodegenerative conditions and significantly protect against age-related cognitive decline.

Brain Boost, unique to CentreSpringMD is a comprehensive program designed to address brain health and cognitive performance from a whole-body perspective.

Final Thoughts

If you have ADHD, you may be concerned about your risk for cognitive decline later in life. While the link between ADHD and cognitive decline is still being studied, recent research suggests that there may be a connection. The good news is that there are steps you can take now to protect your brain health and protect against cognitive decline. 




Ready to Get Started?

Shop The Blog

Why Choose to Autoship?
  • Automatically re-order your favorite products on your schedule.
  • Easily change the products or shipping date for your upcoming Scheduled Orders.
  • Pause or cancel any time.