Maria Shriver is an award-winning journalist, mother of four, a seven-time New York Times best-selling author, and — on top of it all — founder of The Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement. Shriver’s passion is deeply personal and now her own family’s struggle has led to an incredible movement.
On November 2, Maria is hosting an event called Move for Minds. Now in its fifth year, the annual event serves as a powerful fundraising initiative that educates the public on the latest in Alzheimer’s research and advocates lifestyle changes people can make today to support better brain health long-term.
We interviewed Maria about what drives her to support this important cause, what the public needs to know more about, plus key insights on Alzheimer’s prevention…
Maria, How was your passion for Alzheimer’s prevention born?
In 2003, my father, Sargent Shriver, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. He was one of the most brilliant men I’ve ever known, a man who made history with his big ideas. My family witnessed over time as this disease robbed him of his memories, his intellect, his ability to communicate, even the knowledge of what a fork was and what my name was, never mind his own. So I began my Alzheimer’s journey, and the more I learned along the way, the more committed I became to doing something for all the other families reeling from the impact of this devastating disease. Today there are 5.8 million Americans diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and another 18 million people caring for them. It’s literally a mind-blowing disease that destroys brains, bodies, families and their finances. It’s become my passion to help bring awareness about this disease to everyone so that we can help families everywhere. We will all need to get on board to help move the needle on Alzheimer’s.
What’s The Biggest misconception you think peopLe have about the disease?
That by having a family member or a genetic predisposition to Alzheimer’s you are automatically going to develop the disease. There may be no cure or treatment, but today there is reason to believe you can do a lot to delay or even prevent the disease.
What are the three most crucial keys people need to know for Alzheimer’s prevention?
Exercise. Exercise. Exercise. It’s what every expert told me may be the number one preventative measure. That’s why our annual fundraiser, Move for Minds, is held at Equinox, our founding partner. We are all about taking research out of the lab and making it available to people in the gym. And science tells us that’s a good place to start fighting this disease.
What are The Biggest modern influences on brain degeneration?
A sedentary lifestyle is killing us and increasing our risk for Alzheimer’s. Lack of movement, stress, smoking, diabetes, processed foods, social isolation and a life spent in front of a screen instead of gazing at nature are all contributing as well.
What research is most needed to fight this disease?
My focus is on women and Alzheimer’s. I founded The Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement (WAM) because two out of three cases of Alzheimer’s are women. I firmly believe that if researchers can unlock the mystery of why women make up the largest number of cases, we’ll discover answers leading to a cure or treatment that can help us all.
Which research or protocol fascinates + excites you most right now?
I’m excited by a lot of the work being done today, especially the work on women, brains and estrogen. We’ve known that women start to lose their estrogen slowly as they approach menopause, a period called perimenopause. What amazes me is the technology making it possible to watch the impact of estrogen in a woman’s brain in real time. Now what we’re able to see is that women’s brains are starting to undergo changes in structures far earlier in life than we imagined—in their 30’s and 40’s. That’s going to give us some valuable clues about how this disease develops.
Who do you think are the leading influences in the space? Who is making the biggest impact?
I can’t tell you who, where or when the Alzheimer’s breakthrough will take place, so I will abstain from answering that question. I can tell you there are many dedicated, brilliant researchers and doctors working in this field right now—all over the world—and we need everyone one of them to help solve what is on track to become the largest global health crisis.
What gives you the most hope for a cure, better prevention + treatment?
We are starting to collect important data that lifestyle interventions can change the trajectory of Alzheimer’s in a person’s life. It’s a hard thing to prove scientifically because the disease itself is so complex and is impacted by an enormous array of factors. Then add the reality that to draw a connection between preventative lifestyle interventions and a lack of developing Alzheimer’s, you really need to follow subjects over a lifetime. But while we attempt to do that, there are already on-going big data/large population studies, like the FINGER Study, yielding important information.
Could you give us some required reading on the topic?
In the world of prevention, I’d say anyone at risk for developing the disease should pick up a copy of Richard Isaacson’s book, The Alzheimer’s Prevention and Treatment Diet. If you want something on caregiving, there are plenty of good manuals, but also touching personal memoirs, including ones by my friends Marcia Gay Harden and Kimberly Williams-Paisley. Our WAM newsletter also keeps people up to date on the latest articles and books. Check it out here.
How To Support Move for Minds 2019
Move for Minds 2019 will include two half-day sessions, giving attendees the opportunity to choose between morning or afternoon. Attendees are in for an incredible experience of fun, fitness, and information geared to transform mind, body, and spirit. Each session will culminate in a powerful conversation featuring Maria Shriver and leaders in brain health, neuroscience and women’s health. Along with many of the panelists, other leading Alzheimer’s prevention and women’s doctors will be available for more intimate conversations with attendees during the newly added “Doctors Hours” following the conversation.
Mind and spirit-centered activities include meditation, sound baths, and mind sharpening exercises. In addition to meeting top doctors, attendees will have the opportunity to mingle with best selling authors and other leaders in health, wellness, clean beauty, while also exploring cutting edge health and wellness brands. This year’s expanded ‘expo’ area will feature a self-care Zen Den (massage, ear seeding, and reflexology), a large bookstore, brain-healthy food samples, the latest in health tech, and other fun activations.
Visit MoveforMinds.org to register as an attendee or donate.
The Chalkboard Mag and its materials are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. All material on The Chalkboard Mag is provided for educational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health-related programs.