Maria Shriver: Alzheimer’s is the ‘Ultimate Women’s Empowerment Movement’

Maria Shriver spoke about the disproportionate toll that Alzheimer’s disease takes on women at the first-ever Fortune Brain Health Conference, which was held November 1 in San Diego.

The conference convened doctors, researchers, advocates and tech innovators for conversations about how to advance health care in America. Shriver’s discussion centered around the topic of wiping out Alzheimer’s and what we can learn by studying its effect on women, who receive two-thirds of all diagnoses. She was joined on stage by Dr. Roberta Brinton, director of the Center for Innovation in Brain Science at the University of Arizona Health Sciences, and University of Southern California Professor David Agus.

“I try to position this as the ultimate women’s empowerment movement,” Shriver said. “If we’ve worked all this way to be recognized for our brains, and we’re losing them at this rate, then we should turn our brains onto this.”

Shriver, whose father passed away from Alzheimer’s in 2011, has used her journalism as a tool to collect groundbreaking data on the disease. In 2010, The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Takes on Alzheimer’s was the first to report that women receive two-thirds of all diagnoses. She established The Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement, an alliance of individuals, organizations, researchers, foundations, influencers and industry leaders, to answer the question of why the disease discriminates against women.

Dr. Brinton said there is a lot we can learn by studying women’s brains, and that this research benefits both genders. She noted that studies have found that one indicator of an increased risk for Alzheimer’s is whether one’s mother had the disease.

“What we’ve learned about the female aging brain has relevance to a man’s brain,” Brinton said.

Shriver encouraged us all to pay closer attention to this mind-blowing disease, but she called particular attention to corporate America, which has invested heavily in cancer and AIDs, but less so in Alzheimer’s awareness.

“It’s a great opportunity for other companies to step up and say ‘Women’s brains matter,'” Shriver said.

One company that has gotten involved is Equinox Fitness Clubs, which partners with Shriver and The Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement for their annual Move For Minds event. Move For Minds is an annual live event that challenges women and men in cities across the country to raise funds for gender-based research and awareness of the body-brain connection.

To watch Shriver’s full FORTUNE Brain Health conversation with Brinton and Agus, go here.

November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month.


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Lindsay Wilkes-Edrington is Shriver Media's digital director. She’d love to hear your ideas and feedback for the Architects of Change digital community! Connect with her here.

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