10/19/2010 02:55 pm ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Maria Shriver: Alzheimer's 'Will Bankrupt Every Family In This Country' (VIDEO)

For many people, Alzheimer's is still spoken of in a whisper. But the epidemic can no longer be ignored; the disease is now the sixth leading cause of death in America.

California's first lady Maria Shriver, a long-time vocal advocate for the disease, has issued a new report along with the Alzheimer's Association. Shriver discussed the galvanizing report on ABC News with Diane Sawyer.

Scientists are exploring a possible link between Alzheimer's and estrogen, Shriver said. More women than men at age 65 have the disease, and it is now known that it takes 20 years to develop Alzheimer's before diagnosis. What happens to women around age 45 or 50? Menopause, and estrogen loss. Thus, scientists believe there is a window of opportunity to give women hormonal therapy that could help ward off the disease, Shriver said.

Shriver called for a larger, more centralized effort in Alzheimer's research, citing comparisons to research funding for other leading diseases: $6 billion for cancer, $5 billion for heart disease and $500 million for Alzheimer's.

"We can launch an expedition on the brain much like President Kennedy launched an expedition to the moon," Shriver said. "We need to find a cure for this disease, otherwise it will bankrupt every family in this country and will bankrupt us as a nation."


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