The Link Between Diabetes and ADHD

Type 2 Diabetes – A Rising Health Threat

Recent research has shown a strong association between ADHD and the onset of Type 2 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes is a rising health concern in the U.S. Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that 34 million Americans have diabetes and 95 percent of those have Type 2 diabetes. If left untreated, it may lead to heart and kidney disease, nerve damage, high blood pressure, blindness, and amputation. The condition is most common in people over the age of 45, but due in part to the rise in childhood obesity, a growing number of younger people are developing it.

The risk factors for Type 2 diabetes include:

  • High blood sugar
  • A family history of diabetes
  • A sedentary lifestyle
  • Obesity

The Different Kinds of Diabetes

There are essentially 3 types of diaabetes:

  • Type 1 diabetes – This is caused by the physical inability of the pancreas to produce sufficient insulin to manage high blood glucose levels.
  • Type 2 diabetes – This occurs when the body begins to resist the effects of insulin, or stops producing enough to maintain normal blood glucose levels. Prolonged high blood sugar affects the body’s ability to produce insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas that helps to tap down Type 2 diabetes.
  • Gestational diabetes – This occurs during pregnancy and is considered a risk factor for Type 2 diabetes. Studies have shown a correlation between gestational diabetes and offspring with ADHD.

The Symptoms of Diabetes

Below are some of the symptoms commonly experienced by individuals with Type 2 diabetes:

  • An increase in thirst
  • Blurred vision
  • Fatigue, or
  • Bruises and cuts that are slow to heal
  • Cognitive impairment

This last symptom can make the diagnosis of ADHD later in life more difficult.

Why People with ADHD Might be More Vulnerable to Type 2 Diabetes

People who grow up with untreated ADHD are more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes, as well as obesity and hypertension, as they get older. Why does this happen? In part, it may be due to the fact that ADHD impacts planning and organization, making it harder to regularly engage in healthy physical activity and prepare nutritious meals. This is further complicated since ADHD brains tend to crave dopamine rewards and for many, this can lead to overeating and sugar addiction. 

Executive functioning issues that come with ADHD can also interfere with the complicated diabetes treatment process. It involves:

  • Knowing how to plan properly and set achievable goals
  • Having good strategies to manage impulses
  • Discovering ways to sustain motivation and avoid burnout
  • Establishing a schedule that makes it easy to remember all the testing and medications
  • Knowing how to multi-task and find balance in life.

Preventing Type 2 Diabetes

If you are at risk for Type 2 diabetes, it’s important to try and adopt healthy lifestyle regimes. These include:

  • Nutrition – This means healthy food choices and avoiding excess sugar in your diet. Get help from a nutritionists if you have difficult figuring this out the est options.
  • Exercise – A regular exercise regime is good for your cardiovascular health and also helps improve your mood. You can start with short amounts of exercise and build up as your body adjusts to the new routine.
  • Weight control  – Losing weight, if necessary, and keeping it under control can help you improve blood glucose levels, lower cholesterol, and decrease blood pressure.

If you are experiencing persistent symptoms associated with Type 2 diabetes, inform your care provider to get a diagnosis and develop a treatment plan.



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  1. Colleen Brady

    Thanks for the info about diabetes. I thought from the title the article was going to be about the study linking ADHD and diabetes. I’m interested in the study because of a family history of type 1 diabetes and gestational diabetes as well as a new understanding of ADHD occurring among family members who either have type 1 diabetes or were in-utero to mothers with gestational diabetes. Reading about the study would have given me more information about those observed linkages.