Alan Alda goes public with Parkinson's disease diagnosis to get ahead of potentially 'sad' tabloid stories

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Alan Alda has Parkinson’s disease.

The legendary actor from M*A*S*H and West Wing went public with the news Tuesday on CBS This Morning. Alda, 82, said he was diagnosed in 2015 and that since then he’s had a full life. However, he recently launched his podcast, Clear+Vivid With Alan Alda, and during the press tour noticed his thumb had been twitching, as tremors are associated with the disorder of the central nervous system. So he decided to go public with his diagnosis to get ahead of any potentially “sad” tabloid stories about his health.”I haven’t said in public until now that I’ve been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease,” he said. “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. I’ve acted, I’ve given talks, I help at the Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook, I’ve 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.”

Alan Alda, pictured in 2017, has gone public with his Parkinson’s disease diagnosis.. (Photo: Getty Images)
Alan Alda, pictured in 2017, has gone public with his Parkinson’s disease diagnosis.. (Photo: Getty Images)

Alda, who appeared on The Good Fight earlier this year, said that an article he read in the New York Times led to him asking his doctor to test for the disorder. “I asked for a scan because I thought I might have it,” the six-time Emmy winner revealed. “I read an article … that indicated that if you act out your dreams, there’s a good chance that might be a very early symptom where nothing else shows. And 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. What I was really doing was throwing a pillow at my wife.”

Alda had no other symptoms. Months after his diagnosis, he noticed his thumb twitching.

“The thing I want folks to know — and this is not to shortchange people who are suffering with really severe symptoms. Symptoms can get really bad and their families can suffer,” 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. I’ve taken boxing lessons, three times a week. I do singles tennis a couple of times a week. I march to Sousa music because marching to march music is good for Parkinson’s.”


He said when he was initially diagnosed, his reaction was mainly helping his family not be worried. “It’s common for us all to go to the worst thought, but what’s interesting is this is a disease that’s different for almost everybody who has it. There is some common symptoms, but mostly everybody is different. And each day is different from the next. One day you wake up you think, oh, it’s over. It’s gone. The next day it’s back a little worse. You don’t know what it’s going to be. But the main thing is, there is stuff you can do. You know how I look at it? It’s like a puzzle to be solved. What do I have to adapt to to carry on a normal life? And I enjoy solving puzzles.”

Alda, who says he’s “not angry” to be diagnosed, says he plans to discuss it further on his podcast.

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