Appearing Tuesday on CBS This Morning, the former M.A.S.H. star said he was diagnosed with the neurodegenerative disorder three and a half years ago.
The 82-year-old actor said he’s not angry and considers it a challenge. “The reason I want to talk about it in public is that I was diagnosed three and a half years ago and 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.”
WATCH BELOW: The latest on Parkinson’s disease
He also mentioned that he could see his thumb twitch in a recent podcast and thought someone would write a sad story about him soon.
When he was asked how he felt when he found out his diagnosis, Alda revealed he had asked for a scan.
“I asked for a scan because I thought I might have it. … I read an article in the New York Times that indicated that if you act out your dreams, there’s a good chance that might be a very early symptom when nothing else shows,” he shared.
“By acting out your dreams I mean, 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,” Alda explained.
“I didn’t have any (other) symptoms. The doctor said, ‘Why do you want a scan? You don’t have any symptoms,’ and I said, ‘I want to know if there’s anything I can do, I want to do it before things start to show up,” Alda said.
Alda said revealing his diagnosis might be helpful to others with Parkinson’s that there are things they can do.
“This is not to short-change people who are suffering with really severe symptoms,” he said. “But 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.”
Alda took to Twitter to discuss his diagnosis on July 31, writing, “I decided to let people know I have Parkinson’s to encourage others to take action. I was Diagnosed 3 and a half years ago, but my life is full. I act, I give talks, I do my podcast, which I love. If you get a diagnosis, keep moving!”
He sent a follow-up tweet, writing, “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 I’m not entering dementia. I’m no more demented than I was before. Maybe I should rephrase that. Really, I’m good.”
Parkinson’s disease is a progressive nervous system disorder that affects movement and symptoms start gradually, sometimes starting with a barely noticeable tremor in just one hand, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Parkinson’s is a chronic condition and symptoms can vary from one person to the next. Robert TerSteege, an information and referral associate at Parkinson Canada, says it’s important that patients pay attention to their own bodies so they can receive the best possible level of care and quality of life.
This requires patients to attend to certain needs in order to achieve those goals to help manage their symptoms, like tremors, rigidity, postural instability and non-motor symptoms like difficulty swallowing, nausea and more.
Other common issues include constipation, sexual dysfunction, depression and/or anxiety.
According to the National Populations Health Study of Neurological Conditions by the Public Health Agency of Canada, more than half of those with Parkinson’s have fair or poor general health, and people with the disease have the highest use of prescription medication.
The number of Canadians over the age of 40 living with Parkinson’s is expected to jump to 163,700 by 2031.
Alda played a senator who ran for president on The West Wing and he also hosted Scientific American Frontiers on PBS.
—With files from the Associated Press and Dani-Elle DubeFollow @KatieScottNews
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