Maria Shriver, ABC shine spotlight on Alzheimer's Disease

By Rebecca Powers – bio | email

NEW YORK, NY (ABC) - Groundbreaking new research shows that Alzheimer's Disease actually develops 15 to 20 years prior to diagnosis. And with 78 million Baby Boomers now entering their 60s, experts say it's more pressing than ever for the country to start paying closer attention to this troubling disease.

Chances are you already know someone afflicted by Alzheimer's Disease. In fact, every 70 seconds someone in the U.S. is diagnosed with this debilitating condition.

But did you know that women are at the epicenter of this growing epidemic?

Maria Shriver is the founder of A Woman's Nation. She said, "Sixty percent of the people who get it are women. They're also doing the care taking, and millions of these women are also working full-time."

The first lady of California knows the struggle of caring for a loved one with the disease all too well. Her father was diagnosed in 2003 when little was known about this silent killer.

That's why Shriver, in collaboration with the Alzheimer's Association and ABC News, have introduced "The Shriver Report: A Woman's Nation Takes on Alzheimer's" in hopes of educating Americans on the startling facts about the disease.

Ann O'Leary is the Executive Director of the Berkeley Center on Health, Economic and Family Security.

"It's a tremendous burden on families," O'Leary said. "We estimate that families are spending $56,000 a year they're paying out of pocket."

Right now, there is no cure. But experts say money for research is severely under funded.

"Heart disease and cancer get $6 billion, $5 billion, and Alzheimer's gets $500 million," Shriver said. "And, in fact, it's going to be Alzheimer's in the next several years that's going to get those people way before cancer or heart disease."

According to "The Shriver Report" the U.S. will spend $20 trillion over the next 40 years treating Alzheimer's. One reason why they are now asking Congress to pass the National Alzheimer's Project Act to create a national strategy for dealing with this ongoing problem.

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