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Healthy Lifestyle May Improve ADHD In Kids

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A new study suggests that a healthy lifestyle goes a long way towards helping children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). While children with ADHD are often treated with medications like Ritalin or Adderall, parents can also contribute to their children’s well-being by sticking to healthy habits.

In the study, researchers studied 184 children with ADHD and 104 without, ages 7 to 11. They found that the children with ADHD were less likely to observe the healthy behaviors recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Sleep Foundation and the US Department of Agriculture.

These recommendations include one to two hours of total television or computer screen time daily, at least one hour of physical activity a day, a limited intake of artificially sweetened beverages, getting nine to 11 hours of sleep each night and drinking seven to 10 cups of water, depending on the child’s age.

Kathleen Holt, study author and member of the Behavioral Neuroscience at American University in Washington, D.C., says that, “Many parents of children diagnosed with ADHD do not want their children on medication.

Having their children follow healthy lifestyle behaviors may be an effective intervention, either alongside or in the place of traditional ADHD medications.

She adds, “Parents of children with ADHD should talk with their pediatrician about how to improve health behaviors, such as limiting screen time, encouraging physical activity, improving bedtime routines and drinking water rather than other beverages.”

Changing lifestyle habits at once may then lead to other healthy behaviors, say Holt, which in turn becomes consistent in the child’s lifestyle. “For example, physical activity increases thirst, making water consumption more attractive. Physical activity can also offset screen time and can improve sleep. Similarly, removal of caffeinated beverages prevents their diuretic effect, helps increase water consumption and can help prevent sleep disturbance.”

Holton concludes that, “As research into health outcomes in children with ADHD continues to provide new insights, focusing on the overall number of healthy lifestyle behaviors may become important.”

The study was published in the Journal of Attention Disorders.

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