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YOUR HEALTH | ADHD & Alzheimer’s Link

“We found that, in fact, the people that have a higher genetic probability to have ADHD, also have the pathology of Alzheimer's in the brain.”

PITTSBURGH — More than six and a half million people are living with Alzheimer’s in the United States. More than six million children have attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. One is usually diagnosed later in life, and the other is diagnosed earlier. But could the two actually be linked? The answer could help save minds and memories.

Different generations, different diagnoses, but surprisingly similar symptoms.

“There were instances that we, kind of, thought were senior moments and they were happening way too often,” Jim Burnham said about his wife, Jane, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

Emma Krabbe, who was diagnosed with ADHD, said, “Like, your brain wants to shut down and it doesn’t want to take in any more information.”

Symptoms of ADHD range from carelessness to a lack of focus and forgetfulness. For Alzheimer’s, it’s poor judgement, a lack of focus and of course, memory loss. Now, a new study out of the University of Pittsburgh is looking at a possible link between the two.

“We found that, in fact, the people that have a higher genetic probability to have ADHD and also have the pathology of Alzheimer in the brain,” explained Tharick Pascoal, MD, PhD, a UPMC psychiatrist.

The study is the first to tie the genetic risk of ADHD to the chances of developing late-onset Alzheimer’s disease. By calculating each person’s ADHD PRS, or polygenic risk score, and matching it with that patient’s signs of Alzheimer’s disease, researchers were able to show that the higher the PRS score, the greater the chances of developing Alzheimer’s.

Researchers are planning larger, more comprehensive studies, including more research to determine whether interventions to correct ADHD can influence the risk of Alzheimer’s disease in the future.

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