Maria Shriver Announces Challenge 66 Campaign to Fight Alzheimer’s

Maria Shriver appeared with Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb on TODAY Friday to announce the launch of Challenge 66, a campaign started by her organization The Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement to raise awareness and funding for gender-based research.

Every 66 seconds, a new brain in this country develops Alzheimer’s. Two-thirds of those brains belong to women, and no one knows why. Shriver said that’s why she is so focused on trying to find an answer. Campaign 66 is a movement that encourages individuals everywhere to donate in increments of 6 — $6, $66, $660, or more — to help support research of women’s brains.

“I’m trying to get researchers and scientists all over the country to focus on gender-based research,” Shriver said. “Is it hormonal? Is it menopause? Is it depression? Is it diabetes? It may be a combination of all of that.”

In addition to being two-thirds of the Alzheimer’s diagnoses, women are also two-thirds of the caregivers in this country. That’s a role Shriver became intimately familiar with when her father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. He passed away from the disease in 2011.

“He was a such a sweet man,” Gifford said.

“And brilliant,” Shriver said. “That’s what’s so amazing about this disease is that it robs your brain. I say it’s mind blowing not just for the person who gets it, but for the entire family.”

Dealing with Alzheimer’s can be discouraging, but Shriver said she’s trying to focus on the hope that’s out there. Lifestyle choices like exercise, diet, supplements, sleep and meditation are all key components of brain health.

Shriver covers all of those topics and more at Move For Minds, her annual event in partnership with Equinox Sports Clubs. Move For Minds is an afternoon of information and inspiration for everyone who wants to move the needle forward on Alzheimer’s—personally, professionally or politically. In 2017, it expands to eight cities across the U.S and will be held on June 4. For more information, go here.

“It’s really to kind of hit people who are in the gym and already thinking about their bodies,” Shriver said. “You have a brain up there and you want to think of your body holistically. If we have a great body, but we lose our brains, what good does that do?”

While genetics can play a role, Shriver said “your genes are not your destiny.”

“There are things you can do starting today in terms of exercise, diet, sleep and meditation, and help us,” she said.

To learn more about The Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement and donate to Challenge 66, go here.

Watch Maria Shriver’s conversation with Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb:

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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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