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For people with Down syndrome, family members, caregivers and professionals.

Reducing Risk of Getting Alzheimer's Disease

August 2018 | Brian Chicoine, MD - Medical Director, Adult Down Syndrome Center

At a recent Advocate Aurora Health event, Darren Gitelman, MD, Senior Medical Director of the Advocate Memory Center, presented on Alzheimer’s disease. He focused on ways to prevent or reduce one’s risk of getting Alzheimer’s disease. Some of his recommendations are below.

Physical Exercise

  • Incorporate moderate intensity exercise into your regular routine. An example is walking for 150 minutes per week.

  • Light weight lifting may also be beneficial.

    • Light weight lifting is beneficial for other reasons, too. Lower bone density and increased risk of osteoporosis are more common in people with Down syndrome compared to people without Down syndrome. Weight lifting can help build bone strength and prevent bone loss.

Healthy Diet

  • Some of the diets Dr. Gitelman recommended are the Mediterranean diet, the DASH diet, and the MIND Diet.

  • Include green, leafy vegetables and brightly colored fruits and vegetables in your diet. At least 6 servings/week are suggested. Eat fish, nuts, and olive oil on a weekly basis.

Mental Exercise and Social Activities

  • Challenge yourself. Experience the world. Keep your mind stimulated. Keeping our brains stimulated may maintain a greater degree of function.


  • Aim to get 7-8 hours of sleep each night.

  • Treat sleep disorders.

Sensory Deficits

  • Manage impairments of vision and hearing. Impairment of vision and hearing affects our ability to function and may also lead to less brain stimulation and more function loss. Vision and hearing deficits are more common in people with Down syndrome.

Stress and Depression

  • Reduce stress. Meditate.

  • Consider treatments such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or medications to treat depression.


  • Limit alcohol use (around 1 drink/day).

Head Injury

  • Avoid head injuries. Ways to prevent head injury include wearing a seat belt in cars, wearing a helmet when riding a bike or horse, and removing hazards that may contribute to falls.

Anticholinergic Medications

  • Anticholinergic medications include “PM” medications such as Benadryl.

  • Avoid chronic use of these medications; they are associated with developing Alzheimer’s disease.


  • Dr. Gitelman does not recommend any of the following supplements:

    • Soy, ginkgo balboa, vitamin C, β-carotene, red clover, curcumin, huperzine A, phosphatidylserine, resveratrol, Prevagen

Many of Dr. Gitelman’s recommendations for reducing one’s risk of getting Alzheimer’s disease have other health benefits as well. The Alzheimer’s Association notes, “While research is not yet conclusive, certain lifestyle choices, such as physical activity and diet, may help support brain health and prevent Alzheimer’s. Many of these lifestyle changes have been shown to lower the risk of other diseases, like heart disease and diabetes, which have been linked to Alzheimer’s. With few drawbacks and plenty of known benefits, healthy lifestyle choices can improve your health and possibly protect your brain.”1


Alzheimer’s Association. (n.d.). Prevention. Retrieved from

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Please note: The information on this site is for educational purposes only and is not intended to serve as a substitute for a medical, psychiatric, mental health, or behavioral evaluation, diagnosis, or treatment plan by a qualified professional. We recommend you review the educational material with your health providers regarding the specifics of your health care needs.