Alan Alda, who won multiple awards for his starring role in the hit TV show M*A*S*H, surprised fans on July 31, 2018, by revealing he'd been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. While sharing the news on his Twitter account, the actor attached a delightful image of himself juggling to show he’s still in great spirits despite the illness. He also gave an encouraging message to others who might be tackling the same disease: “If you get a diagnosis, keep moving!”
During an interview with CBS This Morning a few days later, Alda explained how an unusual symptom helped him catch the diagnosis early. After noticing a strange tendency to act out his dreams in real life, he remembered a New York Times article mentioning that as “one of the strongest prediagnostic symptoms” of Parkinson’s. Alda elaborated on what exactly that meant for him in the interview:
"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."
It might sound silly, but the nighttime antics were what inspired him to request a screening from his doctor. In fact, acting out his dreams were the only symptom he had at the time of his diagnosis three and a half years ago. Although Alda’s doctor was baffled by his request at first, it turned out to be just what the actor needed. As we all know, it’s always important to discover any illness as early as possible in order to have the best chance at battling it. Thank goodness Alda had the knowledge to recognize the symptom so soon after it arose! According to his Twitter account, he and his doctor have been treating the illness with exercise (boxing lessons and tennis) and a mild medication.
By sharing his story, Alda is reminding us all to keep a keen eye on our own bodies for any sign of potential health issues. If you notice yourself acting out your dreams at night, you might want to check in with your doctor to get a screening, too. Even if you think it’s just an odd quirk, it could actually be your body sending you a message.