Maria Shriver Alzheimer's event

According to research shared by Maria Shriver‘s nonprofit, The Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement, two-thirds of the 5.8 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease today are women, and up to one-third of all Alzheimer’s cases could be preventable through risk-reduction strategies. As Maria (shown above with her daughter Katherine Schwarzenegger Pratt) shares below, part of that strategy is to reduce multi-tasking. Want to learn more? Here’s the full scoop…

This summer, the reputable Cleveland Clinic, which is notably also home to the Center for Functional Medicine led by Dr Mark Hyman, announced the launch of The Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement Prevention Center at Cleveland Clinic. This center, ideated by Maria herself, will be the first-ever women’s Alzheimer’s prevention clinic in the nation, designed to prioritize women’s brain health.

The newly opened Las Vegas-based clinic is directed by Dr. Jessica Caldwell, a neuropsychologist who specializes in brain health, memory, aging, and women’s unique risks for Alzheimer’s. According to Caldwell, the program is the first to pair prevention strategies with individualized risk assessment to help women make tailored, lasting behavior changes to promote brain health and reduce risk. While the program will focus on developing individualized recommendations, some of their focus includes the impact of sleep, stress, medical conditions, menopause, nutrition, exercise and overall brain health.

To celebrate the new center with so much promise to prevent Alzheimer’s in our female population, we asked Maria to share about the preventative steps she herself is taking after all she’s learned. Here’s what she told us:

In order to stay brain healthy, I follow the guidelines that have been scientifically proven to help keep our brains resilient. We outline these steps on the Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement’s website to ensure our audience is armed with the information they need to keep their brains healthy. The most important steps I take are sticking to a healthy diet, incorporating exercise into my routine, prioritizing sleep, reducing stress and how I react to stress, and consulting any medical concerns or risk factors with my doctor.

A sedentary lifestyle is incredibly detrimental to our overall health and increases 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 factors to putting us a risk for brain diseases like Alzheimer’s. So I try to avoid those as much as i can. The biggest key factor– and what every expert has told me to be the number one preventive measure– is exercise. As we’re currently living in uncertain times and gyms all across the country are closed it’s important we find time to prioritize exercise and movement into our daily lives.

8 Habits for Women to Help Prevent Alzheimer’s

Exercise | Studies show exercise helps to improve blood flow to the brain, releases hormones that make you feel good, and stimulates growth factors to help create new neurons and synapses in your brain. The most important thing is to keep your body moving, even if it’s in simple ways.

Use the stairs instead of using the elevator, choose walking over driving whenever possible, dance while doing the dishes or lightly stretch while watching TV. If you work at a desk, stand up and sit down a few times every hour throughout the day. You don’t need to run a marathon to activate your brain health, the female brain actually prefers the slow burn of consistent, low-to-moderate activity to get it flowing.

Nutrition | Stick to a healthy diet rich in fresh vegetables, fruit, whole grain, legumes, and fish, and consume meat and dairy in moderation.
Stay away from processed foods and preservatives as much as possible. Also, sugar is not good for your brain, hard as it may be to give up.

Another great nutrition tip is to replace using salt as much as possible. Instead, cook with herbs and spices. Using less salt will help control your blood pressure, which is key for good brain health. Plus, herbs and spices also have anti-inflammatory effects on the body.

Move your Mind |  Mental activity and exercising your mind offers benefits for brain health. To exercise your brain, try a brain teaser, crossword puzzle, or any of the many “brain-games” available online. Mind-focused games like these help force your brain to retrieve stored information and thus, strengthen existing neural pathways and actually create new ones. You can literally strengthen your brain.

There are also simple ways you can stimulate your brain like switching up your daily routine or shifting habits in your daily life to help your brain create new pathways.

Avoid over-Multitasking | By focusing on too many things at once, you are compromising your ability to store information over short periods of time. Try performing tasks sequentially for optimal brain performance, productivity, and accuracy. Focusing on one task at a time helps your brain to reset and block out distractions.

Prioritize Sleep | Sleep is essential to both the short term and long term health of your brain.  Sleep enhances the formation of memories, and also in cleaning out amyloid deposits that can lead to dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease.

Your brain needs 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night, and to ensure you’re receiving it, reduce the distractions that prevent you from sleeping like your tech devices. Find a sleep routine. 

Prioritize Well-Being | Prioritizing your overall well-being and practicing stress and anxiety-reducing activities help maintain your overall brain function.

Using breath to meditate is the easiest and most portable tool we have to control stress and anxiety each day. Oxygenating your blood while evenly matching the length of your inhale to that of your exhale can relax you quickly.

Spending time in nature and receiving a nice dose of fresh air each day helps lower the stress hormone cortisol in your body. Prioritize going on walks more often to help your brain reset while also helping your mind and body move.

Human Connection | Social isolation is dangerous to your health. That is now an established fact. People who stay connected and have regular social interaction with friends and family are more likely to maintain brain vitality. Although that can be challenging during times of social distancing, find ways to schedule virtual hangouts and calls with your loved ones.

Write down memories so you don’t forget them and share them out loud with others. Memories are the connective tissue that makes us and our relationships unique.

Get tested | Get tested! Alzheimer’s can begin to develop in the brain 20-30 years before diagnosis, so it’s important to identify early in life whether your cognitive health is declining. If you are feeling particularly forgetful, ask your doctor for a cognitive test. It can’t hurt to establish a baseline in any case, and it’s great to get a diagnosis if something is wrong. Compelling research shows that the sooner a person is diagnosed,  the more opportunity there is to slow or delay the symptoms. There are many clinical trials available for people who have a mild cognitive impairment but you have to ask about them. As with all things medical, be an advocate for yourself and your loved ones. And make brain health a regular part of your check-up.

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.

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