Alan Alda has been living with Parkinson’s disease for over three years, the actor revealed Tuesday in an appearance on CBS’s “This Morning.”
“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,” he said.
“I thought it’s probably only a matter of time before somebody does a story about this from a sad point of view,” he added, pointing out that one of his thumbs had been twitching in recent TV appearances. “But that’s not where I am.”
Parkinson’s is a movement disorder with symptoms that include muscle tremors and stiffness, poor balance and coordination. It affects over a million Americans, according to the American Parkinson Disease Association, including Michael J. Fox and the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, the longtime civil rights leader.
Mr. Alda, who made his name in the TV series “M*A*S*H,” said he went to the doctors after reading an article in The New York Times, by Jane E. Brody, which said that acting out one’s dreams could be an early warning sign of the disorder. “By acting out your dreams, I mean I was having a dream that somebody was attacking me and I threw a sack of potatoes at them,” Mr. Alda, 82, said in the interview.
“But what I was really doing is throwing a pillow at my wife.”
He said he had no other symptoms, but a few months later noticed a thumb twitch.
[Read the article about Parkinson’s disease by Jane E. Brody here]
Mr. Alda said he was also speaking out to reassure people that they do not have to be fearful after a diagnosis. “You still have things you can do,” he said. Mr. Alda goes boxing three times a week, plays tennis and marches to John Philip Sousa music. “Marching to march music is good for Parkinson’s,” he explained.
Mr. Alda was not trying to belittle people who have severe symptoms, he added. “That’s difficult,” he said.
Mr. Alda has long promoted science, and Stony Brook University’s Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science is named after him. That honor had also motivated his decision to be open about the condition, he said: “It’d be kind of ironic if I kept quiet about this when a center for communicating science is named after me.”
Mr. Alda called on people to not “follow quackery.” “Find out what real science is coming up with that helps,” he continued. “It helps to keep moving.” After the interview, he posted a tweet of another example of how he does just that: