ADHD medication may increase heart disease risk

Credit: Christina Victoria Craft /Unsplash

A recent study unveiled at the American College of Cardiology’s Annual Scientific Session has shed light on a concern for young adults using stimulant medications for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

These medications, which include well-known names like Adderall and Ritalin, have been linked to an increased risk of developing cardiomyopathy—a condition where the heart muscle weakens and struggles to pump blood efficiently.

The study’s findings are quite striking: individuals taking these stimulants were found to be 17% more likely at risk of cardiomyopathy after one year, and this risk jumped to 57% after eight years, compared to those not on the medication.

Cardiomyopathy can lead to fatigue and limit daily activities, potentially becoming more severe over time.

Despite these numbers, the researchers, including lead author Pauline Gerard, a medical student at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, emphasized that the overall risk remains low.

Even after long-term use of stimulants, the chance of developing heart issues is small, suggesting that there isn’t a pressing need for doctors to alter how they prescribe these drugs or screen patients.

ADHD is a common challenge for many children and adults across the U.S., with about 10% of kids aged 3 to 17 years diagnosed. Treatments often start with behavioral therapy and may include medications, which can impact heart rate and blood pressure.

While stimulants have been scrutinized for their short-term effects on the heart, this study aimed to explore the longer-term risks, given that many people take these medications from childhood well into their adult years.

To conduct their research, Gerard and her team used data from the TriNetX research database, which compiles information from around 80 hospitals nationwide.

They focused on adults aged 20 to 40 with ADHD, comparing those prescribed stimulants to those who weren’t, while excluding any heart damage not related to stimulant use.

The study matched 12,759 pairs based on age, sex, and other health conditions, tracking them for over ten years.

Although the study found a significant link between stimulant use and the development of cardiomyopathy, the overall incidence was still low in both groups. After ten years, less than 1% of those on stimulants developed the condition.

Gerard puts this into perspective by noting that it would take treating nearly 2,000 patients with these medications for a year to potentially cause one case of cardiomyopathy. Over ten years, the risk slightly increases to one in every 500 patients.

The findings suggest that while there’s a tangible risk, it doesn’t necessarily warrant more invasive screening before starting stimulant medications, considering the low overall incidence.

However, the study advocates for further research to pinpoint which patients might be more at risk and whether different ADHD medications or types of cardiomyopathy might influence these outcomes.

This study adds a crucial layer to our understanding of ADHD medications and their long-term impacts, encouraging a balanced view of the risks versus the benefits.

It hints at a future where more personalized approaches could ensure those needing these medications can use them safely, without undue fear of heart-related side effects.

If you care about heart disease, please read studies that herbal supplements could harm your heart rhythm, and how eating eggs can help reduce heart disease risk.

For more information about heart health, please see recent studies that apple juice could benefit your heart health, and results showing yogurt may help lower the death risks in heart disease.

Copyright © 2024 Knowridge Science Report. All rights reserved.