Former First Lady Laura Bush, WomenAgainstAlzheimer’s and Influential Women Launch National Campaign for Women’s Brain Health
Woman’s Day Magazine Joins in Urging Women to “Be Brain Powerful” and take 30-day Brain Health Challenge
NEW YORK CITY, NY (November 7, 2018) - UsAgainstAlzheimer’s, the nation’s leading Alzheimer’s advocacy organization, and its WomenAgainstAlzheimer’s network launched the Campaign for Women’s Brain Health, a consumer-focused effort to drive awareness and behavior change – the first public-facing element of the organization’s Brain Health Partnership. The Campaign is a groundbreaking effort to transform how women see, think, and talk about brain health. It addresses women as powerful advocates for themselves, their families, and their communities. WomenAgainstAlzheimer’s has partnered with former First Lady Mrs. Laura Bush, and other influential women to form “The Brain Trust” -- a committee of influential women including Sheinelle Jones, former Health and Human Service Secretaries Donna Shalala and Kathleen Sebelius, Kathy Calvin, Kim Campbell, Renee Fleming, Delores Huerta, Kay Coles James, Jo Anne Jenkins, Kerry Kennedy, Judy Lichtman, Mary Matalin, Lauren Miller Rogen, and Jay Newton Smalls.
Mrs. Bush, a long-time women’s health advocate and chair of the Laura W. Bush Institute for Women’s Health in Texas, discussed the importance of engaging and empowering women of all ages – not just older women – to “Be Brain Powerful.” The $2 million “Be Brain Powerful” education campaign will show how brain health can play a crucial role in reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and inspire a new sense of hope, optimism and empowerment that will change the way we care for our brains. Women are directed to BeBrainPowerful.org where they can access tips and tools to lead a healthier lifestyle and information on the disease including risk factors, symptoms and preventive practices for women of all ages.
The Campaign will invite women across the country to engage with the 30-day Brain Health Challenge – an effort that encourages women, and men who support them, to pay attention to the brain as a vital organ and monitor their mood, memory, stress and sleep daily. For 30 days, participants will receive a daily email that includes a new brain health activity and opportunity to share their brain healthy behaviors on social media using the hashtag, #BrainGoals.
“It is so important that women start doing what we can to take care of our brains now, before we age,” said Mrs. Bush. “There is a fatalism about Alzheimer’s and dementia. Maybe there is good reason for this when you are in your 90s, like my Mom, but for others we must focus on and learn about the things we can do now to care for our brains. And that’s why I am grateful that WomenAgainstAlzheimer’s is raising awareness and doing vital sex-based research through their Be Brain Powerful Campaign.”
Through her work with The Heart Truth Campaign, Mrs. Bush is familiar with the importance of sex-based research, specifically how heart disease can be detected, and prevented, differently among women and men. When it comes to Alzheimer’s disease, she said, “Scientists need to understand they can’t do every experiment on men.”
The Campaign, in addition to highlighting the economic and lifestyle benefits of brain health, will set aggressive goals for our health care system as a way to prevent cognitive decline and achieve better overall health outcomes. Early physical indicators of Alzheimer’s can now be recognized as much as 20 years before apparent symptoms. It is during this period that the greatest opportunity exists to delay onset of the disease, improve overall health, lower costs, and increase participation in research that will bring new therapies to market to stop disease progression in its tracks.
Alzheimer’s disease is one of the twenty-first century’s greatest health, social and economic challenges. Already, nearly six million Americans are living with the disease, at a national cost of close to $300 billion. As the population ages, prevalence is projected to soar to nearly 14 million by 2050, and costs are set to rise to more than $1 trillion. More than three and a half million women in the U.S. are affected by Alzheimer’s disease.
“Women bear the burden of Alzheimer’s disease. Almost two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimer’s are women, and more than 60 percent of Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers are women,” said Suzanne Steinbaum, Director, Women's Cardiovascular Prevention, Health and Wellness, Mt. Sinai Heart. “However, many women falsely believe the disease is one that targets the elderly only and don’t take any action to reduce their personal risk. This Campaign rightly focuses on the preventative aspects of brain health, so we can truly combat these statistics and provide strategies for early detection of disease, before there are clinical manifestations. We know from heart health that awareness is a game-changer and that women, armed with information and actions, will lead us to a brain healthy world that improves and saves lives.”
Research is beginning to definitively show that more than one-third of dementia cases could be prevented or significantly delayed by addressing lifestyle-based risk factors. A growing number of peer-reviewed studies are making clear that modifiable lifestyle factors engaged in across the lifespan can change the current trajectory of dementia diagnoses in our quickly aging society. Activities that include regular physical activity, staying socially engaged, getting sleep, eating a healthy diet and maintaining good heart health are key. But few individuals understand the steps they can take to reduce dementia risk and health care providers are not educating them.
Participants in the Campaign launch event on November 6, 2018 discussed findings from the new WomenTALK 2018 survey, which shows women want to learn more about brain health and are willing to ask for better brain care – they just need to know how. Findings are summarized in the fact sheet below.
“Research also shows that women play a pivotal role as family ‘Chief Medical Officers,’ making not only their own health decisions, but also their families’ health choices,” said Jill Lesser, President of WomenAgainstAlzheimer’s. “Women have already been change-makers for the key health issues of our time, from heart disease to breast cancer. The campaign will empower women to take the lead on the brain health movement and change the trajectory of brain health for themselves, for their loved ones, and for future generations.”
Women & Brain Health: Findings from the WomenTALK 2018 Survey
The HealthyWomen WomenTALK 2018 survey identifies gaps in women’s knowledge. The national survey of 1,001 U.S. women ages 35-64 highlights that women don’t understand the challenge of Alzheimer’s. Key takeaways include:
- Women want to take care of their brains and need to know how.
- Brain health speaks to a broader audience than Alzheimer’s alone.
- There are opportunities to nudge behavior. Nearly half of respondents claimed that maintaining a healthy brain sounds important, but don’t really know what that means.
Most women are worried about their brain health as they age and would like to measure and track it. The WomenTALK 2018 survey shows more than six out of ten say:
- The health and performance of my brain as I age is something that worries me. (64%)
- I’d be interested in learning more about measures of brain health as something to track and care for. (68%)
- If I could ask my health care provider to measure my brain health to maintain or protect it, I would do so. (67%)
Women need to know what questions to ask and who to ask. Fewer than half of women (45%) are aware of preventive or proactive measures they can take to protect brain health. Brain health is not a common topic of conversation for most women, with only 8% saying they discuss it regularly and 29% saying they discuss it occasionally.
Brain health is relevant to everyone. Only 12% of women say brain health is relevant only for older people.
Few women talk to their parents or children about brain health. Fewer than one out of five women (17%) say they take steps to protect the health of their parents, like encouraging them to eat healthfully, sleep well and engage socially. Only three out of ten women say they take steps to protect the brain health of their children, like talking about staying healthy physically and mentally.
There are barriers in the U.S. health care system to address cognitive decline. Providers rarely raise the discussion with patients and payers do not incentivize them to do so. Consumers can raise the topic and advance the conversation.
Alzheimer’s can now be recognized as much as 20 years before apparent symptoms. Early detection is the key to delay onset of the disease, improve overall health and lower costs. However, past research shows 70% of women believe symptoms develop at ages 60+ and nearly half of all people believe Alzheimer’s is strictly genetic.