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Muhammad Ali and His Decades-Long Battle with Parkinson’s

By Mary-Frances Walsh, 9:00 am on

Muhammad Ali’s decades-long battle with Parkinson’s disease began with a shuffling gait and difficulties with speech. Since the average age of diagnosis for PD is 60, it was understandable that Ali’s doctor didn’t immediately suspect the heavyweight champion had the progressive condition that would prove to be his toughest opponent. Ali was just 42 when diagnosed with Parkinson’s.

Managing Parkinson’s Symptoms

For the most part, Ali’s PD symptoms were managed with medication. Often combined with carbidopa to minimize side effects, levodopa is one of the most common medications used to treat symptoms. Since each patient reacts differently to their combination of medications, doses are often gradually adjusted. Managing PD may also involve:

• Physical therapy
• Fiber-rich foods
• Massage therapy
• Relaxation techniques

Unexpected Medication Reactions

The slow, robotic moves Ali made during some public appearances were actually a reaction to his medication and not related to his PD. In some cases, the drugs used to treat symptoms trigger additional reactions, although the benefits of the medication typically prescribed to minimize tremors and mobility issues often outweigh the side effects for most patients.

Progression of Parkinson’s

While there are five identified stages of Parkinson’s disease, there isn’t always a logical progression of symptoms. In some cases, tremors disappear altogether during later stages. For Ali, the disease would largely confine him to a wheelchair later in life. He had also reportedly reached a point where he was unable to speak. Additional problems related to Parkinson’s, many of which are treatable, can include:

• Difficulty swallowing
• Bladder issues and constipation
• Problems sleeping
• Depression and other mood changes

Coincidentally, boxing may be one of the forms of exercise that can help Parkinson’s patients retain their mobility and improve coordination, according to a Northern Arizona University study. Treadmill training and biking, typically with help or supervision from a Parkinson’s caregiver, may also benefit some patients.

For more information on how home care in Sonoma County can help seniors with Parkinson’s maintain a high quality of living in the comfort of home, please don’t hesitate to call us at (707) 843.4368. Our caregivers are expertly trained to provide safety monitoring and mobility support and help with a variety of everyday tasks. Reach out today. We are here to help.