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What led Alan Alda to discover he had Parkinson's disease

By Leah Groth ; Updated August 02, 2018

Alan Alda has revealed that he is living with Parkinson’s disease. The “MAS*H” star opened up about his health predicament during an appearance on “CBS This Morning,” explaining he was first diagnosed three-and-a-half years ago.

“I’ve had a full life since then,” the 82-year-old said during the inspiring interview. “I’ve acted, I’ve given talks, I help at the Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook, I started this new podcast.” In other words, Alda is focusing on living the best life he can, despite his diagnosis.

Parkinson’s is a progressive disorder of the nervous system that affects movement and other major functions like thinking and sleep. It impacts an estimated 500,000 people in the United States alone, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Physical symptoms include tremors or shaking, slowed movement, rigidity or muscle stiffness and postural instability or poor balance. Although symptoms can be treated with medication or surgery, the disease worsens over time, and no cure is currently available.

Alda first noticed something was wrong while watching videos of himself promoting the podcast, Clear+Vivid with Alan Alda.

“I had been on television a lot in the last couple of weeks talking about the new podcast — and I could see my thumb twitch in some shots and I thought, ‘It’s probably only a matter of time before somebody does a story about this from a sad point of view, but that’s not where I am,’” he said.

Alda then suspected the issue was Parkinson’s, after reading an article about how an early sign of the disease is acting out dreams. “I was having a dream that someone was attacking me, and I threw a sack of potatoes at them. But what I was really doing was throwing a pillow at my wife,” he revealed. Other early symptoms include a decreased sense of smell, constipation and depression, excessive daytime sleepiness, fatigue and pain.

While Alda is aware that more severe and life-altering symptoms are to come, he maintains he is “not angry” and is choosing to view the experience as a challenge. He also wanted send out a message of hope to other sufferers. “In the very beginning, to be immobilized by fear and think the worst thing has happened to you — it hasn’t happened to you. You still have things you can do,” he said.

And Alda is clearly doing a lot: He takes boxing lessons three times a week, plays tennis and marches to Sousa music. In fact, physical activity in general is good for people with Parkinson’s disease, as it can help improve balance by strengthening limbs.

Other celebrities who are living with Parkinson’s include Michael J. Fox and Neil Diamond, who announced in early 2018 he was retiring from touring due to his diagnosis.

Alan Alda’s Parkinson’s revelation is inspiring on many levels: His words are sure to encourage current and future sufferers of the condition that a diagnosis doesn’t mean that life is over and that it is possible to live a happy and healthy life for many years to come.

What Do YOU Think?

Are you inspired by Alan Alda’s Parkinson’s disease reveal? Do you think his experience will help other people? Does having a good attitude about a health condition make the situation better?

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