Heart Conditions and ADHD

The American Heart Association recommends that children with ADHD should get “careful cardiac evaluation and monitoring, including an electrocardiogram (ECG) before starting treatment with stimulant drugs.”

Apparently, “studies have shown that stimulant medications like those used to treat ADHD can increase heart rate and blood pressure.” And while “these side effects are insignificant for most children with ADHD; however, they’re an important consideration for children who have a heart condition.”

What I found very curious is the following: “Surveys indicate that ADHD affects an estimated 4 percent to 12 percent of all school-aged children in the United States, and it appears more common in children with heart conditions. Studies report that, depending on the specific cardiac condition, 33 percent to 42 percent of pediatric cardiac patients have ADHD.” What is the link between heart conditions and ADHD?

Interestingly, during the recent American Psychiatric Association, a pediatric psychopharmacology researcher at Harvard, “emphasized that there’s no evidence that stimulant or non-stimulant medication for ADHD causes sudden death.” By the way, his talk was sponsored by drugmaker Abbott Laboratories, which is working on a new drug for ADHD.

What’s the issue here? Money, of course. It’s expensive to do ECG on every child diagnosed with ADHD. And then if a heart condition is detected (in a whooping 33 to 42 percent of the cases) the parents will be told about the risk of side effects and as a result may decide to avoid medications. This recommendation obviously is not in the financial interest of both insurance companies and drug makers.

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