June is Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month

This blog explores the connection between Alzheimer’s and Down Syndrome.

This June, we raise awareness of Alzheimer’s and Brain health. One topic that may be especially important to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and those who care for them is the connection between Alzheimer’s and dementia and ID/D. While Down syndrome has a well-documented connection to Alzheimer’s disease due to genetic factors, other disabilities may also carry an increased risk for developing Alzheimer’s. This includes intellectual and developmental disabilities, physical disabilities, sensory disabilities, and certain mental health conditions. For this post we’ll give special attention to Down syndrome, however we encourage you to begin conversations with your loved ones and their physicians if you have concerns about the brain health of someone with disabilities.

From what we currently understand, the risk for the general population of developing Alzheimer’s is about 10-12% after the age of 65. In contrast, according to the National Down Syndrome Society, about 30% of people with Down syndrome who are in their 50s have Alzheimer’s dementia. About 50% of people with Down syndrome in their 60s have Alzheimer’s dementia. The reason for this increased risk seems to be dependent on the additional chromosome that people with Down syndrome have. This extra chromosome (21) includes the “instructions” to create a certain kind of protein. This protein is one that causes plaques associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

So, what can we do now if we have Down syndrome or care for someone who does? The Alzheimer’s Association lists 10 Healthy Habits for brain health. Incorporating these habits into daily life can make a positive impact on anyone’s brain health, including those with developmental or intellectual disabilities. The suggestions are simple and easy to implement. For example, challenging your brain with something new, quitting smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, and getting a good night’s sleep.

To learn more or for additional support consider visiting the National Down Syndrome Society’s website, join others by connecting with a support group for people with ID/D and Alzheimer’s and dementia, or speak to a trusted professional. Paladin can assist with ID/D services and supports throughout your lifetime.