Down syndrome happens when a child is born with an extra chromosome, leading to delays in physical and mental development. It's one of the most common genetic birth defects in the United States, affecting one of every 691 babies. Researchers don't know what causes the condition, but it's more common in babies born to women over 35.
People with Down syndrome are more likely to have medical problems, including heart defects and sleep apnea, as well as mental and social development issues. Individuals with the condition vary widely in their abilities, but early intervention and good medical care make a big difference in their development. A growing number are able to live independently, and the average life span has increased to 55 in recent decades.
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Some celebrities are bringing attention to the need for research and awareness about Down syndrome. Music producer Quincy Jones is a spokesperson for the Global Down Syndrome Foundation. Actor/model Beverly Johnson and actor John C. McGinley have also put their names behind the cause.