Did you know that more than 129 million children between the ages of 5 to 19 years are diagnosed with ADHD, or that more than 366 million adults around the world are living with ADHD ?
That’s a surprisingly high percentage of the modern world’s population dealing with attention deficit disorders!
More and more, it seems like our society is struggling to combat and live with these behavior disorders, and the world feels ever-more impulsive and over-stimulated to the point of hyperactivity.
Understanding ADHD and how it affects such a large amount of the population—both in your country and around the world—can help you not only make sense of it, but also take active steps to prevent and manage it should someone in your family be diagnosed with this behavior disorder.
ADHD stands for “attention deficit hyperactivity disorder”, a mental condition that can affect your behavior—causing impulsivity and hyperactivity.
Those who have ADHD may struggle to concentrate on a single task for prolonged periods, or may struggle with sitting still.
Some of the symptoms and signs of ADHD include :
Easy distraction/difficulty paying attention
Difficulty listening to others
Difficulty recalling details and forgetfulness
Poor study and organizational skills
Struggles to wait for their turn
Frequently interrupts or blurts out information/answers
Hyperactivity/constant motion and movement
Struggle with remaining sitting for long periods
Fidgeting and squirming
Shifting from one task to another, often without completing any of them
These symptoms are characteristic of ADHD, in children, teenagers, and adults.
Diagnosis of ADHD typically occurs when the behavior is sufficient to disrupt life at home, school, or work.
There are three types of ADHD:
ADHD, inattentive and distractive type. This is characterized chiefly by an inability to pay attention and easy distractibility, but may not include hyperactivity.
ADHD, impulsive/hyperactive type. This is characterized by hyperactive and impulsive behaviors, but may not include attention difficulties or high distractibility. This is the least common type of ADHD.
ADHD, combined type. This is characterized by a combination of hyperactivity, impulsivity, distractibility, and attention difficulties. It is the most common type of ADHD.
While ADHD is one of the most prevalent—and thus, among the most researched—of the behavioral disorders affecting children (and adults) in our modern society, science has yet to unlock what exactly causes it.
Research has made it clear that it stems from a combination of neurological factors, including low dopamine levels and reduced metabolism in the parts of the brain responsible for movement, social judgement, and attention.
Though it’s unclear exactly what causes it, its effects are highly visible.
It’s estimated  that around 265,000 American children between the ages of 3 to 5 have ADHD (diagnosed). That number rises to 2.4 million in children between 6 and 11, and 3.3 million in children between 12 and 17.
Children are diagnosed with ADHD on average at the age of 7, with the disorder more common among boys (11.9%) than girls (5.5%).
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Though there are no concrete causes of ADHD discovered, researchers have done a great deal of studying to find out what, if any, effect our lifestyle can have on the behavioral disorder. After all, lifestyle plays a role in so many other conditions, so it stands to reason that it could affect ADHD, too.
And research has proven that theory correct!
In one study , it was discovered that certain factors could have a negative impact, increasing the risk of ADHD symptoms and severity. These factors included:
Consumption of sweetened beverages
Insufficient water intake
Less than 1 hour of reading time a day
Excessive screen time
Poor sleep quality
Lack of exercise
Another study  focused specifically on dietary patterns, how eating the wrong foods could worsen ADHD while eating the right foods could improve it.
It was discovered that certain foods increased the risk factors for ADHD and worsened its symptoms, including:
Red and processed meat
Refined cereal grains
Foods with high amounts of food coloring
On the other hand, dietary patterns that involved a healthier, more natural balance of foods (including fruits, veggies, and whole grains) led to reduced ADHD symptoms, or reduced severity.
While ADHD is not a disorder that can be “cured”, it can be managed.
There are a number of medications that can help children and adults to lead healthy, productive lives with ADHD. There are also psychosocial treatments to modulate hyperactive, risk-taking, or impulsive behavior.
In addition to medication and therapies, however, there are certain lifestyle changes that can help you to take control of your or your child’s life and treat ADHD on a daily basis:
A healthy diet. Typically, a diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, legumes, and seeds will be ideal for those with ADHD. Proteins are also crucial for providing the amino acids needed for your brain to function—they can actually improve concentration and enhance the effects of ADHD medications .
Ideally, you’ll want to cut sugary, fatty, fried, processed, and artificial foods from your diet, too. Anything that is refined or loaded with chemical preservatives, flavorings, and colorants should be eliminated.
Focus on eating more natural, complex foods that are rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and Omega-3 fatty acids, and you’ll be feeding your brain and body both.
Daily exercise. Hyperactive children need exercise to burn off their excess energy in a positive, controlled environment. The same goes for adults. Daily exercise will be crucial for encouraging a healthier neurochemical balance, and can reduce stress, improve your impulse control, and reduce hyperactivity.
Aim for a minimum of 30 minutes per day, at least 5 days per week. The more exercise you do, the better.
Sleep well. A good night’s sleep plays a critical role in the production of neurotransmitters and the regulation of your brain chemicals. Poor sleep can decrease attention and make the already difficult task of focusing for prolonged periods even more challenging.
Typically, people with ADHD have a hard time falling asleep, or may not stay asleep through the night. It’s imperative that you protect your sleep at all costs—which could include reducing screen time/bright light exposure in the evenings, avoiding alcohol and caffeine (entirely, or at least later in the afternoon/evening), and maintaining a healthy, consistent sleep schedule.
Avoid habits that could worsen your ADHD. Nicotine, marijuana, and alcohol can all be risky if you have ADHD. They may not directly affect your sleep or lifestyle, but people with ADHD are more likely to become addicted to these substances because they feel like they’re helping you (improving concentration, reducing hyperactivity, etc.). ADHD may also cause you to go overboard in your use of these substances, due to impulse control issues. It’s a good idea to steer clear of these substances as much as possible.
Manage your stress. Stress will only further negatively alter your brain neurochemistry and make it more likely to control/regulate yourself.
Follow routines, plan ahead, stick to your schedule, and break down seemingly monumental tasks into smaller, more doable steps.
Try meditation, mindfulness practice, Yoga, or cognitive behavioral therapy, anything that helps you to calm your mind and reduce stress.
ADHD doesn’t have to ruin your life. It’s a challenge, for sure, but it’s one you can live with—or help your child live with. As long as you’re doing your best to find balance in your lifestyle and doing the things that will reduce your ADHD symptoms (as listed above), there is a great chance you’ll have everything you need to lead a healthy, productive life.
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