On 20 October, Down Syndrome Day is commemorated to raise awareness about the condition. Joining this Health For Mzansi podcast is Dr Nkateko Mnisi, who works in the pediatric department at the Mankweng Hospital in Polokwane, Limpopo.
According to statistics, 1 in 500 babies are born with Down syndrome, which makes up less than 1% of the South African population. However miniscule this may seem, Mnisi strongly encourages a collective effort to cultivate an inclusive and safe environment in the country, where people with Down syndrome can thrive.
In medical terms, Down syndrome is referred to as Trisomy 21 and is characterised by the individual having an extra piece of genetic material. Mnisi explains that the average human being is made up of 46 chromosomes, which is the sum of 23 chromosomes from both the maternal and paternal genes. People with Down syndrome thus have 47 chromosomes because of the additional genetic material makeup.
Debunking common myths
Mnisi says there are many myths regarding this condition, which are not entirely factual and need to be debunked or further explained. One of these myths she identified was that older women (above 40 years old) give birth to Down syndrome children. This is not entirely factual, says Mnisi, as even though older women are at a higher risk, there are three different ways to get an extra genetic makeup.
The other myth to debunk would be that people with Down syndrome die at a young age. While it is correct to say that your life expectancy is decreased if you have Down Syndrome, genetics and health services have improved and advanced so that the life expectancy can be prolonged so that they can reach adulthood (depending on health status).
In this episode, Mnisi also discusses:
- Common complications that affect people with Down syndrome such as being born with heart conditions, challenges with metabolism, and more.
- The collective effort and the distribution of education to raise awareness for the condition.
Listen to the full interview on the Health For Mzansi podcast:
Apple Podcasts: Click here to listen on any Apple device.
Google Podcasts: Click here to listen on Google Podcast.
Get the Health For Mzansi newsletter: Your bi-weekly dose of kasi health, wellness and self-care inspiration.