05/07/2014 05:53 EDT | Updated 07/07/2014 05:59 EDT

The Mother's Day Gift of Good Brain Health

With Mother's Day coming up, now seems like a fitting time to point out the incredible need for research into women's brain health.


Because every Mother's Day we celebrate and honour the women in our lives. The day conjures memories of special moments. We think fondly on the essential role our mothers have played in our development. We may buy gifts because we know what mom likes or needs. We may share family meals based on favourite recipes or choose to go somewhere to mark the day based on mom's love of a certain destination.

All that we do to celebrate mom is tied to our ability to cognitively connect with the past and present, and the nature of that celebration is tied to our mothers' abilities to make those connections as well. What if neither were possible?

Research tells us almost 70 per cent of all new Alzheimer's sufferers will be women and that women are twice as likely as men to suffer from dementia, depression or stroke as they age.

Despite the discrepancy in rates of disease, research still focuses on male brains. But men and women are different, and as such, they differ in the way that diseases present, and in how they respond to treatment. We must learn more about those differences to effect better outcomes.

As the major caregivers in our society, women are especially susceptible. Whether it is due to the increased threats to their own brain health, or the impact of stress due to taking on the role of caregiver, women are at higher risk.

Just as scientists recognized 20 years ago that a man's heart attack was different from a woman's, and addressing those differences meant a healthier outcome for both, it's time to shine a spotlight on brain health in the same way.

When I launched the Women's Brain Health Initiative (WBHI) last year, the goal was to level the research playing field by funding female brain aging research at leading facilities across Canada and to fund educational programs to give women the information they need to stay brain healthy longer.

I'm proud to say that as a direct result of our efforts, the Canadian Consortium on Neurodegeneration In Aging, a collaboration of Canada's best and brightest neuroscientists, has established a Women & Dementia core to help ensure future studies and therapy programs take sex and gender into account.

While we wait for research to catch up to the frightening statistics unfolding before us, we must make every effort to ensure we honour the women in our lives by educating them -- and ourselves -- on the best ways to stave off brain disease processes.

We know now that mental stimulation, physical exercise, nutrition and socialization are key to maintaining good brain health. With the help of leading Canadian neuroscientists, the latest research and key information is now available through our Mind Over Matter videos and magazine.

This Mother's Day, I encourage everyone to consider a gift that really matters for the moms in our lives -- good brain health.

Whether you take the time to watch the Mind Over Matter videos or read the Mind Over matter magazine to learn more about women's brain health, treat mom to a brain healthy meal, or join the women in your lives in some physical exercise, there are many ways you can be part of the effort to improve the cognitive outcome for women everywhere.


Brain Superfoods