Maria Shriver Is Centering Women in the Fight Against Alzheimer’s


Maria Shriver wants women to keep their brains top of mind—and her mission is a personal one.

The award-winning journalist and author had an up-close-and-personal experience with Alzheimer’s when her dad was diagnosed with the disease in 2003. Since then, she’s dedicated a major part of her life to understanding the condition—and she soon realized there was a major lack of research into Alzheimer’s in women.

“So I founded the Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement” at Cleveland Clinic, Shriver says. “[I] rewrote the narrative around Alzheimer’s to put women front and center. It turns out that in fact, two-thirds of the cases of Alzheimer’s are in women, and that wasn’t because women live longer. You couldn’t attribute it to that. So what could you attribute it to?”

Centering women in the fight against Alzheimer’s

The Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement is the world’s first organization devoted exclusively to women and Alzheimer’s disease. It serves as a prevention and research center, driving recognition of Alzheimer’s as a women’s health issue, and it aims to advance research to prevent the disease.

“I think women should be thinking about their brains from the get-go,” Shriver says. “There’s no age that’s too early. And there is no age that’s too late to be thinking and talking about this.”

Shriver has spent four years building the movement and fostering a partnership with the Cleveland Clinic. So far, the Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement at Cleveland Clinic has funded more than $5 million for nearly 50 studies at leading institutions, with grant recipients positioned to earn an additional $83 million in government and foundation funding. The patient-centric research center opened in April 2024—offering women IRL specialty care.

In addition to the Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement, the health and research center offers a wide range of care, including behavioral health, heart health, weight management, menopause, and healthy aging. And there are plans to expand with more gender-specific research funded by the Cleveland Clinic to study women comprehensively, holistically, and at all stages in life.

“I think women should be thinking about their brains from the get-go.” —Maria Shriver, journalist and author

Shriver is the Chief Visionary and Strategic Advisor for the health and research center, advocating for women’s health at large. For now, it’s only available to serve patients in Ohio and Michigan, but there are future plans to add more locations.

The center offers support groups, in-person and online resources that help address health disparities, and patient advocates so no one has to feel alone as they navigate their health. The ultimate goal is to reach diverse communities and bridge the gap in health literacy—brain health and beyond.

“We need to be having an ongoing discussion [about health], and we need to get these kinds of centers out into rural America,” Shriver says. “To make sure people of all ages, all ethnicities, all political backgrounds, and all faiths have access to care.”

3 key ways women can support their brain health

You don’t have to wait until your next doctor’s appointment or reach a certain age before you start caring for your brain. Here are everyday actions you can take to prioritize brain health right away.

“Use it or lose it”

This phrase applies to your physical health, yes, but also to your noggin in order to keep your brain healthy. “The best way to work on your memory is to keep learning and challenging yourself,” says Jessica Caldwell, PhD, director of the Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement Prevention and Research Center at Cleveland Clinic.

“Take a class. Learn a new language or instrument. Listen to a podcast and discuss it with friends. Brain games can also make good challenges,” she adds.

Whatever activity you choose, it should be challenging enough to be mentally stimulating, meaning you’re putting in effort to “work out” your brain.

Move your body

Exercising for brain health has immediate and long-term brain benefits, like increasing brain chemistry that supports the health of your brain cells and reducing chronic bodily inflammation, which can be harmful for the brain, Caldwell says. Exercise can also improve your mood and sleep, reduce stress, support heart health, and increase your chances to socialize—all of which can reduce risks for poor memory as we age.

According to the CDC, you should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week, and for healthy adults, more is better.

Eat nutrient-dense foods

A healthy diet is the perfect complement to a healthy lifestyle. So the next time you’re noodling over what to eat, consider including some brain-boosting nutrients.  “Research shows that a Mediterranean-style diet rich in fish, whole grains, leafy green vegetables, olives, and nuts helps maintain brain health and may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease,” Caldwell says.

“Try to minimize red meat, whole-fat cheese, butter, and fried food and sweets,” she adds. “Also be mindful of alcohol consumption—drinking more than seven drinks per week has been linked to [a higher risk of] dementia.”


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