Did you know that by their 60's, 50% of adults with Down syndrome will develop Alzheimer's disease (source)? Dr. Brian Skotko is a medical geneticist at Massachusetts General Hospital who is leading a clinical trial for a vaccination that would prevent the development of Alzheimer's in the Down syndrome population. According to Dr. Skotko, "Right now we believe that people with Down syndrome might have the key to unlock the mysteries of Alzheimer's for all of us. The pathology of their brains resemble Alzheimer's at an earlier age and can be studied." (source)
In July, Dr. Skotko issued a "Down Syndrome Brain Train Summer Challenge." It was an email series that included some research-based recommendations for boosting brain health in individuals with Down syndrome.
1. Socialization - Research shows that individuals with strong social connections have a lower risk for developing Alzheimers disease. Dr. Skotko challenged families to have a 5 minute long conversation with their loved one with Down syndrome every day, featuring open-ended questions.
2. Exercise - Research shows that exercise can enhance neuroplasticity and delay Alzheimer's disease. The American Heart Association recommends a minimum of 150 minutes of physical activity per week.
3. Play Memory Games - Research shows improvement that lasted for 10 years in neurotypical adults who participated in memory training. The Dollar Tree has memory match cards for - you guessed it - $1. We made our own cards featuring photos of family members.
4. Reduce Sugar Intake - Research shows that dementia risk increased dramatically with sugar intake. Children and adult females are advised to consume no more than 25 grams per day. Adult males should keep their intake at no more than 38 grams per day.
5. Improve Sleep Hygiene - Research linked Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome with increased cognitive deficits in Down syndrome. Dr. Skotko recommends learning the signs of sleep apnea, having a sleep study if symptomatic, and wearing the CPAP mask as prescribed. Click here for some tips for making that happen.
To learn more on how you can help prevent Alzheimer's disease from developing in your loved one with Down syndrome, check out Dr. Brian Skotko's on demand video series "Down Syndrome Brain Train".