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Putting a Face to Parkinson’s: Muhammad Ali & His Battle with the Disease

By Ilse du Bernard, 9:00 am on

Muhammad Ali’s visible struggle with Parkinson’s disease has helped put a face to a condition that affects approximately a million Americans. Ali’s 30-plus year battle with Parkinson’s shows the profound impact the condition can have on overall quality of life.

Possible Causes of Parkinson’s

Ali was just 42 when he was diagnosed with the disease in 1984, although 60 is the average onset age. It’s possible that brain injuries Ali sustained during his boxing career may have contributed to his condition; and a CT scan did show slight shrinkage of his brain. A decrease in dopamine levels results in abnormal brain functioning and nerve cell damage. According to home care agencies in North Houston, it has also been suggested that genetics and environmental factors may contribute to PD.

Treating Parkinson’s

A synthetic form of dopamine, an essential chemical in the brain that’s depleted as PD progresses, was used to treat Ali’s symptoms. As the dosage increases, patients may experience more pronounced symptoms from side effects, which was the case when Ali lit the Olympic torch and displayed slow, robotic movements. According to the National Parkinson Foundation, the condition is sometimes treated with:

• Physical and occupational therapy
• Guided imagery and other relaxation techniques
• Speech therapy
• Deep brain stimulation (DBS)

Later Life Challenges

The second most common degenerative brain disorder, Parkinson’s disease is a progressive condition that often presents challenges as it advances. Later in life, Ali experienced increased difficulty speaking and mobility issues that would eventually require him to use a wheelchair. Additional later-stage issues may include:

• Occasional delusions or hallucinations
• Increased side effects from medication
• Advanced muscle stiffness and rigidity

Ironically, boxing may be something that can help those with Parkinson’s disease retain their mobility. A Northern Arizona University study found that activities like boxing may help improve balance and coordination and re-establish neurological connections that could minimize symptoms of PD.

If your loved one has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s, you don’t have to face the future alone. At Home Care Assistance, our expertly trained Parkinson’s caregivers in North Houston assist with everyday activities, provide safety monitoring and mobility support, and offer emotional support and companionship to help seniors remain comfortable and safe at home. Give us a call today at 832-412-1345 and schedule a free in-home consultation to learn more.