Lauren Miller Rogen’s Mom Died of Alzheimer’s — Here’s How She’s Improving Her Brain Health Every Day

Lauren Miller Rogen was just 25 when her mom was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s. “It was terrible,” Miller Rogen tells SheKnows. Only in her 50s, her mother’s diagnosis was a devastatingly familiar one — both of Miller Rogen’s maternal grandparents had also had the disease. “Unfortunately, I had an idea of what I was walking into,” she said.

So did Miller Rogen’s mother, Adele, who “felt a lot of stigma” around her diagnosis, the screenwriter remembers. “[She] didn’t want us to talk about it, and that was really hard. I’m a writer, and I’m a storyteller, and keeping that in was really difficult.”

Eventually Miller Rogen did share her family’s story, and eventually founded Hilarity for Charity in 2012 with her husband, comedian Seth Rogen. Twelve years later, the Alzheimer’s nonprofit is launching a new initiative designed to educate high school and college students — people not much older than Miller Rogen when her mother was diagnosed — on how they can improve their brain health now, in ways that could pay dividends down the line.

HFCUniverse (aka HFCU) is a series of three courses on brain health and dementia “taught” by a handful of the Rogens’ famous friends, including Kristen Bell, Quinta Brunson, Never Have I Ever‘s Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, and Olympic snowboarder Chloe Kim (plus Seth Rogen himself). Ranging from Brain Health 101 and 201 to “The Master Class” taught by neurologist Dr. Richard Isaacson, HFCUniverse is designed to teach brain-healthy habits in a way that’s “accessible and fun and exciting,” Miller Rogen explains.

And while the courses were designed with high school- and college-aged students in mind, Miller Rogen stresses that “anyone with a brain can take our coursework and get something from it.” The important part is just to start — now. Research has found that Alzheimer’s begins to develop in the brain 10 to 20 years before symptoms begin, and a 2020 study cited by Miller Rogen found that 4 out of 10 dementia cases could be prevented or delayed if patients address their risk factors.

The celeb-professor part of HFCU? There’s science behind that too, as research has found that students learn about Alzheimer’s more effectively from celebrities than from doctors. HFCU’s lessons focus on the nonprofit’s five top brain-healthy habits: sleep, nutrition, exercise, mental fitness (like learning new things), and emotional wellbeing, like limiting stress through practices like meditation, spending time outside, and being social.

For Miller Rogen, whose family has been so impacted by Alzheimer’s, it’s all about making those practices into priorities. “I really have worked hard to make it a part of my life,” explains Miller Rogen, now 42. She says she works out five to six days a week — “I’m now one of those people that likes exercise!” — and keeps up a consistent bedtime, even on the weekend. She knows that sleep, especially, can be daunting for people, and recommends experimenting with different tools to help. “I sleep with a cooling, weighted blanket,” she says. “I tried like a dozen different sleep masks, and found the one that felt right for me. I do a white noise machine… There are so many wearable devices these days that track sleep, so [try] choosing one and sort of getting a baseline and then changing one little thing.”

Through genetic testing, Miller Rogen now knows that she doesn’t carry the most aggressive Alzheimer’s gene, but she’s still taking her risk seriously. “I have spent a lot of time really learning about my own genetics and what I can do to affect that,” she says. “At this point, science and research have given us so many tools to live brain-healthy lifestyles, and to create a a counterbalance, if you will, to our our own genetics.” For herself and others who are worried about their own risk of developing Alzheimer’s and dementia, Miller Rogen and HFC have an optimistic message: you’re not powerless here. As Miller Rogen says, “Your genes may be the map, but they don’t have to be the destination.”

Before you go, read what these celebs have said about their rare or chronic health conditions:

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