Actor Alan Alda, 82, announced on CBS This Morning on July 31 that he has Parkinson’s disease, and has quietly been living with it since 2015. “I was diagnosed three-and-a-half years ago and I’ve had a full life since then,” Alda said. “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. “I thought it’s probably only a matter of time before somebody does a story about this from a sad … point of view, which is not where I am.” Alda said that he hasn’t experienced any symptoms of the disease other than noticing “my thumb twitch.”
Parkinson’s disease affects more than 200,000 people a year in the United States. There is no cure, but treatment can help with symptoms. It is typically characterized by a tremor, slowed movement, rigid muscles, impaired posture and balance, loss of automatic movements (like blinking or smiling), speech changes, and difficulty writing. This is because neurons in the brain start breaking down or dying. The cause of the disease is unknown, but is hereditary and sometimes affected by exposure to certain environmental toxins. Aside from Alda, maybe the most famous person living with Parkinson’s is Michael J. Fox. Here’s five key facts that you should know about Alan Alda:
1. He’s best known for his Emmy-winning role on the 1970s hit show, M*A*S*H. Alda starred in the medical comedy from 1972 to 1973 and racked up five Emmy Awards (21 nominations total) for his performance as main character Hawkeye Pierce. M*A*S*H. was a black comedy that followed the Mobile Army Surgical Hospital during the Korean War. He directed 32 episodes, including the series finale special, Goodbye, Farewell and Amen, which remains the most-watched episode of television to this day.
2. He’s a prominent political activist. His fame from M*A*S*H allowed him to have a platform to speak out on political topics, like women’s rights. He co-chaired with former First Lady Betty Ford the Equal Rights Amendment Countdown Campaign in the 1970s. The Boston Globe called him “the quintessential Honorary Woman” and a “feminist icon” for that work.
3. He runs the Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook. Alda’s a visiting professor at Stony Brook University in New York City, and a founder and member of the advisory board of the university’s Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science and the Future of Life Institute.
NEW: Actor @AlanAlda just revealed he has Parkinson's disease. The award-winning actor says he was diagnosed with the disease three and a half years ago.
— CBS This Morning (@CBSThisMorning) July 31, 2018
4. He wants people to know you can live a full life with Parkinson’s. Alda revealed his Parkinson’s diagnosis to show that he’s living his life and doing just fine despite his prognosis, he said. “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 on CBS This Morning.
5. You probably know him for his other phenomenal roles. Alda was nominated for an Oscar for his role in The Aviator in 2004. He was also on ER, The West Wing, Blacklist, and played Alec Baldwin‘s long-lost father, Milton Greene, on 30 Rock. He was the host of Scientific America Frontiers for 14 years.