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Aging Among Those with Specific Conditions Down Syndrome

Increasing evidence suggests that people with Down syndrome experience accelerated biological aging (Zigman & Lott, 2007) and age-related comorbid and secondary conditions occur earlier than the general population (Bittles & Glasson,2004). Chief among age-related health conditions is the early onset of Alzheimer’s dementia. Estimates suggest Alzheimer’s has a prevalence of 0–10% among people aged 30–39, 10–25% among people aged 40–49, 28–55% among those aged 50–59,and 30–75% among those aged 60–69 (Van Dyke, Harper, & Dyken, 1998; Smith,2001; Lai & Williams, 1989; Bush & Beail, 2004). Smith (2001) identifies common comorbid and secondary conditions among adults with Down syndrome, including higher rates of diabetes, heart disease, hearing loss (losses as high as 70%), vision loss (13% cataract; 43% refractive error), hypothyroidism (10–40%), mental illness,including depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder and conduct disorder,and dental disease. Smith notes that diagnosing and treating Alzheimer’s becomes complicated in people with Down syndrome because the disease may manifest itself through changes in mood, behavior, and sleep disorders. McCarron, Gill,McCallion and Begley (2005) show that people with Down syndrome who experience Alzheimer’s are more likely to report comorbid conditions than people with Down syndrome alone. These conditions include epilepsy (55.5% with DS and AD vs. 11.4% with DS only), lung disease (55.5 vs. 8.1%), vision impairment (88.9vs. 72.1%), hearing loss (44.4 vs. 21.3%), and depressive illness (38 vs. 18%).

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