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Why Women Our Age Need to Focus On Our Minds

Sargent Shriver Elementary School Dedication
Silver Spring MD
Romero Britto Apple Sculpture
Photograph by Laurence L. Levin

This essay first appeared as "The Power of the Mind" on Maria Shriver's website as a part of her "I've Been Thinking" series. You can ask Shriver your questions about moms and brain health during our streaming Facebook Live interview 2:30 p.m. Thursday, May 19, when Mom.me editor Madeline Holler and Shriver will talk about Alzheimer's disease, brain health and this weekend's #MoveForMind campaign.

Growing up my mother always said to me, “If you have your health, you have everything.” She also was always on me to never focus on my looks and to always focus on my mind.

Well right now, my mind is intensely focused on answering this question: Why are women disproportionately affected by Alzheimer’s disease? My mind searches for answers as to why a new brain develops Alzheimers every 66 seconds and 2/3 of those brains belong to women.

Why is it that no one can tell me why this is happening? Why is it that billions of dollars are being spent on cancer and AIDS (by the way, I’m glad they are) and Alzheimer’s gets a fraction of that? Why isn’t the disease receiving comparable federal funding when millions of people have it (we’re talking about 5.3 million Americans and counting) and millions and millions more people find themselves caregiving for it around the clock. In fact, I heard a sobering statistic recently, it would take 43 football stadiums to hold all of the women in America who currently have Alzheimer’s disease; if each of those people only had one caregiver (and they don’t), it would take 86 more football stadiums to hold all of them.

This Saturday, in partnership with Equinox Sports Clubs, we are hoping to get answers to some of these questions. Women across the country — and the men who love them — will come together in six cities at six Equinox Sports Clubs to exercise, raise money for gender-based brain research and get informed as to what we can each do to lead lives where our brains are as in shape as our bodies. We will Move for Minds.

My experience is that when people — women AND men — put their minds to something, it gets done.

My mind is focused on finding a cure for Alzheimer’s. It’s also focused on living a life that might delay its onset in my own body by exercising, meditating, sleeping and eating right. I have four kids and I want to live to see their kids. I want to know their names and their children’s names.

It’s beyond mind-blowing to find yourself sitting across from a parent who has Alzheimer’s and has no idea who you are, or worse, who they are. Trust me I’ve been that child and I would do anything to spare someone else that experience.

I want to be healthy. In my mind and in my body. I don’t take my health for granted. My physical health OR my mental health. None of us should. So, while researchers today can’t tell us the ‘Why?’ when it comes to Alzheimer’s, they can share with us what we can do right now. Because there are things we can do. Things we can do together that will help our minds and our bodies. In fact, experts and doctors will be at each of our six Move for Minds locations doing just that on May 21.

I hope you will focus your mind on this issue as well. I invite you to join me and so many other amazing thought leaders, researchers, innovators and Architects of Change this coming Saturday, May 21, to get educated, get empowered, get engaged in your own brain health and body health. It’s the best way to make them last a lifetime.

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