Women's Alzheimer's Movement at Cleveland ClinicMeet Maria Shriver, Founder of WAM
My dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer's in 2003. He was an incredibly brilliant man, with a memory that was second to none. To watch someone lose that in real time was both heartbreaking and mind-blowing. Instead of feeling helpless or upset, I decided to better understand what Alzheimer's was and how we could prevent it.
Because it’s a movement of people. We’re growing from the grassroots up. Also, movement is important when you’re talking about brain health and, if you want to get anything done in the world, if you want to galvanize people, you need a movement.
Alzheimer's was in the shadows. It was this scary disease that people thought only affected old people. Now there’s a much bigger conversation about cognitive health and dementia. Women are part of the narrative now. So is lifestyle.
When I first started, no one was talking about things you could do to prevent or delay Alzheimer’s. Now we know that exercise and sleep are good and that sugar, stress and certain foods are bad.
1. That it’s hereditary. If Alzheimer's runs in your family, you should be concerned. But if it doesn’t run in your family, you should also be concerned. This can impact any one of us.
2. That it’s just part of aging. There are things you can do, starting in your 30s, 40s or 50s, to protect your brain. Will they prevent dementia completely? No, but they may delay it and keep you functioning longer.
“If Alzheimer's runs in your family, you should be concerned. But if it doesn’t run in your family, you should also be concerned. This can impact any one of us.”
When you notice things changing, you must act. Talk to them. Look at what they are eating and not eating. Read labels. Take them to a neurologist to get them checked out. But, most importantly, be gentle and be kind. Put yourself in their shoes. There are many ways to approach the issue with love and compassion.
Make sure you are taking care of yourselves. This can be tough. If you know a caretaker, acknowledge the amount of work they’re doing, the stress they’re under and that they’re probably scared, too. Make sure they take breaks. And if you’re bringing somebody in to do the work, make sure you’re paying them a living wage.
I exercise and meditate daily. I eat as best I can. I prioritize my sleep. I try to stay connected, curious and involved.