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I just returned from an inspirational trip to the Brain Health Fair in Boston. Hosted by the American Academy of Neurology (AAN), the Brain Health Fair launched the AAN Annual Meeting uniting over 15,000 neurologists from around the world. This event was designed and executed by neurologists who were on hand to answer questions about the wonders of the brain. Attendees had the opportunity to hear about: epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s and dementia, stroke, Parkinson’s and movement disorders, pain, concussion, the latest advances in child neurology, and other brain diseases.

 

The keynote address on Alzheimer’s was delivered by Maria Shriver, a woman I have always admired. On the plane ride east, I dove head first into The Shriver Report, A Woman’s Nation Takes on Alzheimer’s, a study she conducted in partnership with the Alzheimer’s Association. The report sheds light on the nearly 10 million American women who are affected by Alzheimer’s as a patient or caregiver. I was astonished by the similarities this neurological disease had with pediatric epilepsy. In particular, both diseases are progressive and stigmatized. They leave the patient or caretaker feeling powerless and unaware of what to expect next. Early diagnosis is essential to healthy coping and, until recently, diagnosis occurred only after clinical symptoms were apparent and catastrophic brain damage could have already occurred.

 

The interconnection between Epilepsy and Alzheimer’s has been heavily researched and is a revealing insight into treatment for both diseases. More detailed information on the scientific studies can be found here:  

 

 

 

 

 

A purple background with text. There is a small line of text that reads, 'Maria Shriver presents', and below this a logo, in white, reading 'The Women's Alzheimer's Challenge'. A smaller white text line underneath reads, 'powered by women's brains'.

 

Ms. Shriver’s presentation highlighted the connection between Alzheimer’s and the American woman. As a special needs mom, I can to attest to her view that the American female caretaker has “increased stress, depression, lost sleep, chronic anxiety and immune system deficiency.”  This is a reality we need to face as a nation and it is daunting. According to the Alzheimer’s Association’s Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures Report:

 

 

So why are so many people getting Alzheimer’s and why are the majority of them women? To tackle this question and combat this epidemic, Maria Shriver partnered with Equinox Sports Clubs to create an inaugural MOVE FOR MINDS event at select Equinox Sports Clubs across the country taking place this Saturday, May 21, 2017. Akin to the Brain Health Fair, participants will engage their brains and bodies in experiential learning while engaged with the who’s who of brain research, fitness, food, nutrition, stress/sleep and caregiving. To participate or learn more, check out The Women’s Alzheimer’s Challenge.

 

At the conclusion of the presentation, I introduced myself to my long time heroine and shared Mickie’s story and our fight for pediatric epilepsy awareness. I asked Ms. Shriver if there was a centralized brain research center that wholistically studied all the neurological cerebral ailments. Ideally, this type of think tank would aggregate research, whereby we could all benefit, instead of fighting over the meager dollars doled out by the National Institute of Health (NIH). Her response was “I do not believe so, good idea…create it”. The Federal Government spends much less on Epilepsy compared to diseases that affect fewer people. Of the NIH’s $30 billion for medical research, only half of one percent is spent on Epilepsy research. This is shocking when you consider more people live with Epilepsy than Autism Spectrum Disorders, Parkinson’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis and Cerebral Palsy combined.

 

The more I learn about Pediatric Epilepsy and the brain, the more excited I get about future breakthroughs in research and treatment. Allow me to close with the following passage out of The Shriver Report:

 

“The brain is for America today what the moon was for America in the 1960s: The Next Frontier. If we make a commitment and launch more of our best doctors and scientists at the brain, they’ll one day produce treatments and prevention strategies and even cures- not just for Alzheimer’s but for a whole host of brain diseases…”

 

I know in my heart this is true.

 

Blessings,

Kristie Griess

 

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