We're All Gonna Die

Dr. Russell Barkley shared his latest research with those of us who attended the International Conference on ADHD in November 2018, and the room was abuzz with conversation after he announced that ADHD was linked to a shorter life span that was more significant than cancer, obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. In short, if you have a diagnosis of ADHD, you are more likely to suffer from one of those health issues as well, and your life span may be shortened by 7-13 years as a result.

Take three long, slow, deep breaths. Do not be deterred. All data can be used for the greater good.

As drastic and shocking as that conclusion may sound, I share in Dr. Barkley's enthusiasm for the implications in the importance of diagnosing and treating ADHD with the same fervor that a doctor would approach diabetes.

Many diagnosed with ADHD are left to figure out the who/what/where/when/why of their treatment options and plans, especially when diagnosed as adults. It's one of the reasons that organizations like www.CHADD.org and events like the International Conference on ADHD are so important to everyone touched by this diagnosis. Dr. Barkley's life expectancy study on ADHD hits home the importance of diagnosis and treatment so that these  patients can get the treatments they need sooner in life and possibly ward off more serious health risks like diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and depression. In fact, many doctors will readily throw prescription drugs at all of these other health issues.

If an patient diagnosed with ADHD seeks medication, they may be met with hesitation and a lack of knowledge regarding the current prescription treatments available for ADHD, which is often thought of as a first line of defense. And don't forget about complimentary lifestyle changes and low-hanging fruit such as diet, sleep and exercise changes can improve ANYONE’s health - for sensitively wired brains, these are pretty critical for optimal performance. Most docs get a hot minute of education on topics like ADHD and nutrition in medical school, but that is a whole separate topic. You can read my thoughts on that topic HERE. Advocating for health cannot be understated in this instance. That is my takeaway.

When patients seek and receive treatment earlier in the process, their chance to build a comprehensive treatment plan increases. With that plan one should be building in the appropriate scaffolding and support; creating meaningful strategies for executive deficits; and the achievement of productive outcomes often increases.

So, while we are ALL gonna die at some point, an ADHD diagnosis shouldn't necessarily be looked at as a death sentence. It IS serious when not given proper attention. I see it as more of an impetus to get moving and create a treatment plan that actively and compassionately addresses the diagnosis and deficits or challenges that person with ADHD faces. You wouldn't expect a doctor to withhold insulin from a diabetic, would you? The best case, when a diagnosis is provided, is to do something to help close those gaps.

Want to read more about the study?