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Can ADHD be prevented?

Norris S. Payne, MD
Pediatrics

Medical science has not yet found a way to prevent ADHD. ADHD is one of the most commonly inherited disorders of the human race, transmitted from parent to child genetically, and present in 10-15% of all children. As in most conditions, the symptoms of ADHD range from mild to severe, with the majority of individuals falling in the moderate range. ADHD does not always need to be treated with medication. Many people, including children and adults with ADHD, are able to control their distractability and disorganization to some extent, depending on the severity of their disorder, by making a conscious decision to focus with more intensely, by keeping written lists of activites requiring completion, and by taking notes on verbal and written information needed to perform well in school or at work. ADHD symptoms may be minimized by regular exercise, a healthy diet of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lentils and lean meats. One should avoid foods and drinks with preservatives, artificial colors, flavorings, refined sugar and caffeine. Structured activities, biofeedback and behavioral modification are valuable therapies in treating ADHD. Living and working in a calm, emotionally stable, supportive environment  eliminates unnecessary distractions and improves focusing power. Regular sleep habits and adequate sleep are vital. Good prenatal care, a stable family environment and plenty of  encouragement and understanding from family, teachers and peers is essential. More severe cases of ADHD will require a medical team approach as early as the second or third grade consisting of a physician, a counselor, perhaps a tutor, behavioral modification and sometimes medication to maximize the success and self esteem of individuals with ADHD. If medication is needed, it is important to initiate before the student begins to fail in daily activities which may result in emotional trauma and poor self esteem. Some children will outgrow ADHD over time, especially if treated early.  A timely, correct diagnosis of ADHD with individualized treatment plans will allow each child with ADHD to function on a level playing field with peers and will provide every chance of success in developing each child's individual gifts and talents for a bright and promising future.  

In most cases, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) cannot be prevented, but the risk for developing the illness can be reduced by ensuring that young children and expectant mothers are not exposed to environmental toxins, such as lead, and by ensuring that expectant mothers maintain healthy behavioral habits. Research also suggests that early behavioral therapy may be an effective way to minimize symptoms.

Preventive measures to reduce the incidence of ADHD in children are not known at this time. However, early detection and intervention can reduce the severity of symptoms, decrease the interference of behavioral symptoms on school functioning, enhance the child's normal growth and developmental process, and improve the quality of life experienced by children or adolescents with ADHD.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.