M*a*s*h Star Didnt Reveal Diagnosis Publicly Until 2018
It was during a CBS This Morning appearance in 2018 that the M*A*S*H star told the world about his diagnosis.
Fox, who starred in shows like Family Ties and Spin City, created The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinsons Research in light of his own journey with the disease. He was diagnosed with Parkinsons in 1991 and remains, at 60 years old, a staunch advocate for researching its causes and conditions.
M*A*S*H remains one of the biggest highlights in Aldas long, successful career. He would act, write, and produce numerous episodes throughout the shows 11-season run on CBS. Alda amassed 21 Emmy nominations for the show, winning five times.
This Was The First Sign Of Parkinson’s Alan Alda Noticed
For most of the ’70s, Alan Alda starred as Hawkeye, the chief surgeon on the beloved series, M*A*S*H. But he’s so much more than his classic character. Also a stage actor, filmmaker, author, and activist, Alda has made a career out of forming connections with others. At the age of 85, the six-time Emmy award winner is still performing and hosting his own podcast, among other pursuits. In 2015, Alda was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease . And while he didn’t publicly reveal his diagnosis until three years later, he’s since talked openly about his experiences with the disease and how he keeps moving forward despite it. He also shared the early sign that led to his diagnosis and how it involved his wife of 64 years, Arlene Alda. To hear more about the actor’s history with Parkinson’s and how it’s affecting him today, read on.
Alan Alda Reveals Parkinson’s Disease Diagnosis
The M*A*S*H and West Wing actor says he has been living with disease for three years, but is living a full life
Alan Alda, who starred as Hawkeye in the long-running TV comedy M*A*S*H, has revealed he has Parkinsons disease.
The 82-year-old actor told US talk show CBS This Morning that he was diagnosed with the disease more than three years ago, and had lived a full life since then. Ive acted, Ive given talks, I help at the Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook, I started this new podcast, he said.
Alda said he had decided to talk publicly about his diagnosis when he began to exhibit symptoms of the disease. 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, he said. And I thought, its probably only a matter of time before somebody does a story about this from a sad point of view, but thats not where I am.
Alda has remained active since his diagnosis, writing on Twitter: I take boxing lessons 3 days a week, play singles tennis twice a week and take a mild pill all Dr. recommended. I even juggle a little. And Im not entering dementia. Im no more demented than I was before. Maybe I should rephrase that. Really, Im good.
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What Causes Parkinson’s Disease
The cause of Parkinson’s is unknown but scientists believe several factors play a role, including genetics, environmental triggers and other health conditions.
According to the Mayo Clinic, researchers have identified specific genetic mutations associated with Parkinson’s disease, though these are rare unless many family members are affected by the disease.
The presence of Lewy bodies — clumps of specific abnormal proteins — also appear to be markers of Parkinson’s disease. Scientists are working to better understand their relationship to the disease.
Additionally, research has also shown that exposure to toxins, including herbicides and pesticides, may slightly increase the risk of Parkinson’s.
Men are also more likely to develop Parkinson’s than women. People typically develop the disease around 60 or older.
Alda Was Doing Something Unusual While He Asleep
Out of the blue, Alan started having these extremely vivid dreams. In one dream, in particular, someone was attacking him and he defended himself by throwing a sack of potatoes at his assailant. But in reality, all that he was actually doing was throwing his pillow at his poor sleeping wife.
Alda noted that he didnt have any additional symptoms at the time. It wasnt until weeks later that he noticed his thumb was involuntarily twitching.
After bringing that worrisome symptom up with his doctor, Alda requested a brain scan. Eventually, he was diagnosed with the degenerative neurological disease.
Even though there isnt yet a specific test that can be done to conclusively diagnose Parkinsons, doctors often rely upon a combination of brain scans, blood tests, and other methods to rule out other possibilities.
Parkinsons disease is a disorder that progressively affects the nervous system and in time begins to impede a sufferers motor functions. Although symptoms of the disease typically come on slowly and mildly, they can become rather severe and debilitating in time. A patient will inevitably experience symptoms like tremors, muscle stiffness, slowed movement, impaired and changes in speech and writing.
Unfortunately, we have yet to determine the exact cause of the disorder but doctors are fairly confident that age, genetics, and environmental factors likely play a major role in its development.
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‘m*a*s*h’ Actor Alan Alda Shares His Secret To Living Well With Parkinson’s Disease
What was said: Actor Alan Alda opened up about living with Parkinsons disease in a new interview with AARP. In addition to detailing his journey with polio as a child, Alda explained how acting out his dreams helped him realize he had Parkinsons and how hes coping with the diagnosis by staying active.
A lot of people hear they have Parkinsons and get depressed and panicky and dont do anything, just hoping itll go away. Its not going to, but you can hold off the worst symptoms. Alan Alda
The backstory: Alda initially revealed he was diagnosed with Parkinsons disease in 2018. He revealed the news during a CBS This Morning interview, sharing that initially the diagnosis was difficult to cope with. But, over time, he moved to a place of acceptance and continues to live a full life.
I take boxing lessons 3 days a week, play singles tennis twice a week, and take a mild pill all Dr. recommended. I even juggle a little. And Im not entering dementia. Im no more demented than I was before. Maybe I should rephrase that. Really, Im good.
The frontlines: Parkinsons disease is a progressive condition caused by a loss of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter responsible for movement, among other functions, in your nervous system.
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Sleep Disorders And Parkinson’s
Henchcliffe notes that it’s been well documented that sleep disturbances, including having problems falling asleep or staying asleep, restless legs syndrome, and other sleep disorders, are common in people with Parkinson’s. Over the years there’s been some debate over whether sleep trouble is a complication of Parkinson’s or a precursor of the disease an early warning sign that surfaces well before other symptoms set it.
“What’s really turned out to be a critical link is the recognition that certain specific sleep disorders , not only affect people with Parkinson’s but in fact show up in some cases many years earlier than the movement symptoms that lead to diagnosis,” Henchcliffe said. “So while for some types of sleep disturbances we might still debate whether they are precursors or complications, for RBD there is now extremely strong evidence that it can be a harbinger of Parkinson’s disease that will manifest some years down the line.”
REM sleep behavior disorder is characterized by people acting out their dreams, like Alda experienced. Examples of this might include dreaming that you’re fighting off an attacker and actually punching out, or dreaming that you’re hitting a ball on a tennis court and physically swinging your arm to make the stroke.
Henchcliffe emphasizes that not everyone with RBD is destined to develop Parkinson’s.
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He Hopes To Remove Some Of The Stigma Around The Disease
Alda told WSJ that he’s not in “the business of pretending not sick.” And he believes that being candid about his Parkinson’s can help others.
“One of the reasons I talk in public about it was it helped remove some of the stigma, because I know people who have recently been diagnosed who feel that their lives are over, and they’re shocked and dismayed,” he explained. “It’s a common reaction to get depressed, and it’s really not necessary. I mean, it can get really bad, but your life isn’t over. You don’t die from it, you die with it.”
Although there are many ways to manage Parkinson’s, depression and other mental health issues can come with the disease. The Parkinson’s Foundation explains that nearly “50 percent of those diagnosed with PD will experience some form of depression,” and that it can impact a person’s motivation, sleep, and energy levels. The organization notes that treatments can include, but are not limited to, “antidepressant medication, counseling, exercise, and social support.”
Responding To The News Of Award
“Alan Alda speaking publicly and openly about his Parkinson’s diagnosis will further help to bring Parkinson’s out of the shadows and shine a light on a condition that affects 145,000 people in the UK and more than 10 million worldwide. The more Parkinson’s is discussed the more understanding there will be, along with the vital need to drive forward research.
“It’s a progressive condition that damages the brain and few people realise that is has over 40 symptoms. As well as the most widely known tremor these range from physical symptoms like pain and muscle stiffness to depression, anxiety, hallucinations, memory problems and dementia, but Parkinson’s affects everyone differently. Parkinson’s UK is funding ground-breaking research to find better treatments, and one day a cure, and campaigning for a better care and support for those with the condition.”
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Fox Is Also Doing His Part To Combat The Disease
He’s not been out and about as much as he used to, but back in January, Fox was seen walking with a cane in New York. He wore a very comfortable hoodie and loose jeans as he walked with a female companion.
Fox, 58, opened a foundation in his name which works to find a cure for Parkinson’s. Late last year, the USFDA approved a new medication for the disease. It may not cure Parkinson’s but could alleviate symptoms.
Your Dreams Could Be An Early Clue To Parkinson’s Disease
Alda, best known for his portrayal of Army Capt. “Hawkeye” Pierce in the TV series “M*A*S*H, was diagnosed three and a half years ago after experiencing a lesser-known early sign of Parkinson’s. He said he asked his doctor to test him for the disease after reading an article about how physically acting out your dreams can be one of the earliest precursors of the neurological disorder.
“I asked for a scan because I thought I might have it,” Alda said. “I read an article by Jane Brody in The New York Times that indicated that if you have if you act out your dreams, there’s a good chance that might be a very early symptom, where nothing else shows.” He recognized that it had happened to him.
“By acting out your dreams, I mean I was having a dream where someone was attacking me and I threw a sack of potatoes at them, and what I was really doing was throwing a pillow at my wife,” Alda explained.
At that point, he had no other sign of illness. “The doctor said, ‘Why do you want a scan? You don’t have any symptoms,'” Alda recalled. “And I said, I want to know if there’s anything I can do I want to do it.”
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Alan Alda Wants To Inspire Not To Burden
Alan Alda started a podcast called Clear + Vivid. The point is to explain the difficulties and joys in connecting with people. The point, he explains, is to have open and honest conversations about our similarities and our differences.
The M*A*S*Hstar told CBS that hell continue to do his work and follow doctors orders. And he plans to discuss what hes going through as he hopes it motivates others to get tested. But most of all, he isnt going to worry.
Im not going to worry. While Im trying to say something else, Im not going to be thinking, is my thumb on a life of its own. You know, thats just one of the realities of my life. But Ive acted in movies since its three-and-a-half years since I had the diagnosis and it hasnt stopped my life at all. Ive had a richer life than Ive had up until now.
Tom Hanks To Present Alan Alda With Sag Life Achievement Award
Alan Alda makes sure to stay active in quarantine to help stave off his Parkinsons symptoms.
The 84-year-old M*A*S*H star, who is at the highest risk for contracting COVID-19 given his age and underlying health conditions, relies on exercise to keep him strong despite his battles.
I began to exercise. A lot of people hear they have Parkinsons and get depressed and panicky and dont do anything, just hoping itll go away,he told AARP magazine. Its not going to, but you can hold off the worst symptoms.
He continued, Movement helps: walking, biking, treadmills. But also specific things: I move to music a lot. I take boxing lessons from a guy trained in Parkinsons therapy. I do a full workout specifically designed for this disease. Its not the end of the world when you get this diagnosis.
While quarantining with his wife, Arlene, at their home on Long Island, the couple have been going on socially distanced walks with their friends to keep moving.
Im having a good time, under the circumstances, he said.
Alda announced in July 2018 that he was diagnosed with Parkinsons, a progressive disorder that affects the nervous system. There is no cure for it.
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Your Doctor May Be Able To Help You Find Relief
There are several ways that your doctor may be able to help you combat this particular symptom, experts say. “Oral medications, botulinum toxin injections, surgical interventions, radiotherapy, speech therapy, and trials of devices may be used to treat sialorrhea in PD,” explains the Movement Disorders study, noting that more research is needed to fully understand the efficacy of those treatments.
Early interventions, such as physical therapy, may also help control sialorrhea, given that the underlying cause can sometimes be muscular. By working to maintain coordination in the face, mouth, tongue, and throat, you may be able to minimize the effects of these symptoms/
Alan Alda Reveals He Has Parkinson’s Disease: I’m Not Angry
Alan Alda has Parkinson’s disease. In an appearance on “CBS This Morning” Tuesday, the award-winning actor, best known for his relatable portrayal of Army Capt. “Hawkeye” Pierce in the TV series “M*A*S*H,” revealed he was diagnosed three-and-a-half years ago.
“I’ve had a full life since then,” he said. “I’ve acted, I’ve given talks, I help at the Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook. I started this new podcast. And I noticed that 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.”
Alda said he got tested for the disease after reading an article about how one of the early signs of Parkinson’s 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 said.
The 82-year-old recently launched a podcast called Clear+Vivid, which explores all the ways in which people communicate with each other. The ability to engage with people clearly, he says, is the key to greater understanding for everyone. Another reason Alda spoke out was to send a message of hope to those who might be facing the disease.
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I feel good, he added. I work so hard, I guess thats part of it. I feel like a kid because Im working so hard.
Alda may be an octogenarian, but that hasn’t stopped him from embracing technology, so much so that hes known to some as the worlds oldest millennial. Thats what they call me at my office because Im very into computers and social stuff, you know, and my podcast,” he said. “Im very happy with all that stuff.
The six-time Emmy winner isnt showing any signs of taking it easy. In addition to his exercises, he stars in the upcoming film, Marriage Story, appears on the Showtime series, Ray Donovan, and continues to host his podcast, Clear + Vivid.
Early Diagnosis Leads To Better Outcomes
Fast forward to today, and now doctors are FINALLY recognizing that acting out your dreams can be one of the earliest signs of the disease.
Not everyone has this little-known symptom, of course. But for those who do, recognizing it could lead to an earlier diagnosis.
Which it turns out is critically important with Parkinsons disease.
Because by the time the symptoms youre probably more familiar with such as tremors, rigidity, and balance issues appear treating the disease is much more challenging.
In fact, by the time they show up more than 60 percent of the dopamine neurons in the basal ganglia of your brain may have already been lost.
Which means with any treatment you try youre already playing catch-up.
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