Kymberly Martin

Down syndrome comes with high dementia risk

By age 55, three out of five people with Down syndrome will be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or another neurodegenerative condition, according to a new US study. The study also found the odds of developing dementia are 40 per cent for those with Down syndrome aged 40 to 54.


The study, from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Waisman Center, analysed the prevalence and incidence of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in more than 2,900 adults with Down syndrome living in Wisconsin. The study which ran from 2008 to 2018 was recently published in JAMA Neurology.

It highlights that people with Down syndrome have a much higher probability of developing dementia than their peers, Down Syndrome Australia CEO, Dr Ellen Skladzien told F2L.

Skladzien said this is in part due to the amyloid protein precursor (APP) gene, which is involved in the development of Alzheimer’s disease that is located on chromosome 21. As a result, the APP protein is overproduced in people with Down syndrome which increases their likelihood of getting Alzheimer’s disease. “The study adds to the existing body of research on this issue. It is relevant to Australians with Down syndrome who also face the higher probabilities of developing dementia,” she said.


“People with Down syndrome can sometimes have difficulties getting access to assessment for dementia. There can be a range of different reasons for people experiencing a change in their thinking or independence. It is important that people with Down syndrome get assessed if changes are noticed to ensure they get access to appropriate health care and support.”

Until recently only people with Down syndrome who attended research clinics had ever been studied. What is different about this study is that because it analysed people on Medicaid it looked at a much more diverse, real-world population.

According to Down Syndrome Australia, older adults with Down syndrome experience some age-related conditions at a younger age and more frequently than people in general.

Down Syndrome Australia has produced a national resource called Down Syndrome and Dementia: A Guide for Families which provides information about Down syndrome and dementia including information about assessment and support, risk reduction and resources.

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