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Muhammad Ali and His Struggle with Parkinson’s

By Rick Cohen, 9:00 am on

Boxing legend Muhammad Ali recently passed away at the age of 74 after battling Parkinson’s disease for more than 30 years. Ali’s very public struggle with the progressive, neurodegenerative condition that affects nearly a million people in the United States alone illustrates the long-term impact of the condition.

Early Signs of Parkinson’s

According to accounts by family members, Ali showed signs of PD about 2-3 years before he was officially diagnosed in 1984. Initially, doctors thought the symptoms may have been from a previous viral infection or the result of heavy-metal toxicity. Even now, it’s difficult to make a diagnosis before someone exhibits symptoms that may indicate something’s wrong. Symptoms associated with the early stages of PD include:

• Tremors
• Difficulty with movement
• Muscle stiffness
• Trouble maintaining balance

Treatments for Parkinson’s

It has been reported that Ali primarily controlled his Parkinson’s symptoms with medication. Levodopa, or L-dopa, is the most commonly prescribed drug used to manage PD symptoms. In some cases, this drug may cause involuntary tics, muscle stiffness, and spasms. It’s been suggested that this was the reason for Ali’s slow, robotic movements when he lit the flame at the 1996 Summer Olympics.

Slow and Steady Decline

Ali experienced a slow and steady decline as the disease progressed. A CT scan showed that Ali’s brain was somewhat shrunken and fluid-filled ventricles were enlarged, which may have played a role in how the disease progressed for him. In later years, the Olympic champion lost his ability to speak and had increased difficulty walking. His cause of death was septic shock, unrelated to PD.

Australian researchers recently announced the development of a blood test that may eventually make it possible to diagnose Parkinson’s disease before too much damage is done to cerebral nerve cells. According to home care agencies in Milwaukee, early detection is important when it comes to successfully managing PD symptoms. 

If your aging parent has recently been diagnosed with Parkinson’s, call Home Care Assistance at (262) 782-3383 and find out how a Parkinson’s caregiver in Milwaukee can help. Our caregivers are expertly trained and help with everything from everyday tasks like cooking and cleaning to mobility support. Reach out today.

Muhammad Ali and His Ongoing Struggle with Parkinson's