Created: December 30, 2013
Kathy S. Martin, PT, DHS
Down syndrome (DS) is a genetic disorder in which babies are born with full or partial extra copies of the genes on chromosome 21, thereby changing how the brain and body develop. Approximately 6,000 babies are born with Down syndrome (DS) in the United States each year, and about 400,000 people in the United States and 6 million people worldwide have DS. Most children with DS have delayed mental and physical development, and congenital heart defects are common. The average lifespan of a person with DS in the United States and other developed countries is now about 60 years of age. With this increased longevity, issues of aging with DS arise, including a relatively high incidence of depression, Alzheimer disease, and degenerative joint disease. Physical therapists improve quality of life for people with DS by helping them increase their motor skills, muscle strength, and joint stability; incorporate healthy lifestyle habits; enhance participation in life activities; and prevent complications of DS, such as obesity and low levels of cardiovascular fitness.