How Maria Shriver Boosts Her Brain and Helps Women With Alzheimer’s
Devoted mother of four, journalist, author, and health advocate Maria Shriver, 64, shares her secrets to keeping her mind — and body — healthy and stress-free!
For more than two decades, Emmy Award–winning journalist Maria Shriver has reported on the latest breakthroughs related to Alzheimer’s disease — a personal mission after losing her father to it in 2011.
“Over the years, I’ve gained tremendous encouragement from all the medical advancements, particularly those aimed at the health of women’s brains,” she shares with FIRST. Since Alzheimer’s disproportionately affects women, both as patients and caregivers, Maria works tirelessly to help women find strategies to lessen their risk and slash their stress levels.
“I’ve learned that it’s all about changing our perspective. Now, I think more about how my food, stress, and lifestyle choices may impact my brain,” she says. “It helps me feel empowered, peaceful, and stronger.” Here, the secrets that Maria relies on to nourish mind, body and spirit:
Deepens Sleep: Before-Bed Prayer
“A good night’s sleep is so important for your overall health,” Maria says. “It helps your brain clear out the trash in order to better process and stay healthy. For me personally, prayer before bedtime is a wildly helpful and calming way to getting sounder sleep. I also pray before I get out of bed every morning and meditate before having my coffee. It keeps my stress down all day!”
Increases Joy: Unplugging with Loved Ones
“I love having a full house and a full table,” Maria gushes. “I love when all four kids are here, and now that our family is growing and adding their spouses and babies, my heart is so full. An expanding family is such a blessing, and it makes our traditions — like playing family games or taking a hike — even more memorable. I love playing UNO or ‘catch and capture the flag’ with my four kids. It’s a fun way to spend quality time together that I look forward to sharing with the next generation.”
Ends a Bad Mood: A ‘Reset’ Walk
“I’ve learned that I have the power to completely turn around a negative situation or a bad mood,” Maria explains. “The best thing I can do for my mood — and my brain! — is to move regularly. If I’m having a bad day or I’m feeling stressed, I’ll hop on my bike and go for a ride or take a walk. Moving always has such a dramatic effect on the way I feel, so I try to exercise twice a day. I do something aerobic in the morning, but I love to take a walk to clear my head in the evening. I find that I’ll walk out the door feeling one way and walk back in feeling completely different. It resets my outlook.”
Boosts Brain Health: Learning New Things
“I try to keep myself engaged and learning something new to stay sharp, energetic and focused,” Maria explains. “During the pandemic stay-at-home orders, I learned about succulents and gardened with my daughters. I also recently learned to play poker, and I’m now learning mahjongg. I also like to challenge my brain by brushing my teeth with my non-dominant hand and instead of relying on technology to navigate a trip or to speed-dial a phone number, I try to memorize directions and phone numbers — it really works!”
Secret Weapon: Vitamin-Rich Breakfast
“I eat foods packed with vitamins D and B-12, which are great for brain health,” says Maria. “I start every day with a glass of celery juice and egg-white bites — it puts a smile on my face because I’m getting a big boost of nutrients!”
Maria’s Passion for Helping Women
In June 2020, Maria’s organization, The Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement, opened The Women’s Alzheimer’s Prevention Center at the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Las Vegas. It’s the first-ever Alzheimer’s prevention clinic in the nation to offer women-specific resources, medical care, research, and caregiving support.
The center, conceptualized by Maria, is designed for and operated by women specialists and physicians. “Every 65 seconds, someone in the US develops Alzheimer’s,” says Maria, who is also chair of California’s Task Force on Alzheimer’s Prevention, and Preparedness, which tackles the rise in cases in our country. “And we know two out three of those patients are women. Until there’s a cure, prevention is our best defense.”
Now, there’s a space where all women can go to retrain their brain, try various brain-healthy exercises (like yoga) and have access to resources. “Making adjustments in their 40s and 50s,” says Maria, “is what will help women have a strong brain in their 70s, 80s and beyond!”
A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, First For Women.