Cardiovascular disease risk factors in autistic adults: The impact of sleep quality and antipsychotic medication use

Bishop, Lauren; Charlton, Rebecca A; McLean, Kiley J; McQuaid, Goldie A; Lee, Nancy Raitano and Wallace, Gregory L.. 2023. Cardiovascular disease risk factors in autistic adults: The impact of sleep quality and antipsychotic medication use. Autism Research, 16(3), pp. 569-579. ISSN 1939-3792 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

Approximately 40% of American adults are affected by cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors (e.g., high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and overweight or obesity), and risk among autistic adults may be even higher. Mechanisms underlying the high prevalence of CVD risk factors in autistic people may include known correlates of CVD risk factors in other groups, including high levels of perceived stress, poor sleep quality, and antipsychotic medication use. A sample of 545 autistic adults without intellectual disability aged 18+ were recruited through the Simons Foundation Powering Autism Research, Research Match. multiple linear regression models examined the association between key independent variables (self-reported perceived stress, sleep quality, and antipsychotic medication use) and CVD risk factors, controlling for demographic variables (age, sex assigned at birth, race, low-income status, autistic traits). Overall, 73.2% of autistic adults in our sample had an overweight/obesity classification, 45.3% had high cholesterol, 39.4% had high blood pressure, and 10.3% had diabetes. Older age, male sex assigned at birth, and poorer sleep quality were associated with a higher number of CVD risk factors. Using antipsychotic medications was associated with an increased likelihood of having diabetes. Poorer sleep quality was associated with an increased likelihood of having an overweight/obesity classification. Self-reported CVD risk factors are highly prevalent among autistic adults. Both improving sleep quality and closely monitoring CVD risk factors among autistic adults who use antipsychotic medications have the potential to reduce risk for CVD.

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Funding information: Funding for this research was provided by: The George Washington University start-up funds (GLW); Autism Speaks (Grant number: 11808; GAM), the Fulbright Visiting Scholar program (RAC); and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (Grant number: U54HD090256; LB).

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Data Availability Statement: Research data are not shared.


antipsychotic medications, cardiovascular disease, health, sex differences, sleep quality

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25 November 2022Accepted
9 December 2022Published Online
March 2023Published

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Date Deposited:

10 Jan 2023 14:15

Last Modified:

15 Mar 2023 11:19

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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