Alan Alda Has Parkinson's Disease, Was Diagnosed Over 3 Years Ago

Alan Alda

"You still have things you can do."

Actor Alan Alda is opening up for the first time about having Parkinson's disease

During an appearance on Tuesday's CBS This Morning, the 82-year-old M*A*S*H star revealed that he was diagnosed with the disease three and a half years ago.

According to the Mayo Clinic, Parkinson's disease is "a progressive nervous system disorder that affects movement," with symptoms beginning gradually, "sometimes starting with a barely noticeable tremor in just one hand."

"I'm doing great. You might be surprised to hear that. I haven't said in public until now, that I've been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease," Alda shared. "The reason that I want to talk about it in public is that I was diagnosed three-and-a-half years ago and I've had a full life since then. I've acted, I've given talks, I help at the Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook. I started this new podcast."

Alda went on to explain why he decided to make his diagnosis public now. "I had been on television a lot in the last couple of weeks talking about the new podcast -- and I could see my thumb twitch in some shots," he said. "And I thought, 'It's probably only a matter of time before somebody does a story about this from a sad point of view.' But that's not where I am."

The West Wing actor also shared that he was diagnosed after a scan, which he asked for on his own volition after reading an article in The New York Times

"I asked for a scan because I thought I might have it. I read an article by Jane Brody in The New York Times that indicated that if you act out your dreams, there's a good chance that might be a very early symptom where nothing else shows," he said. "By acting out your dreams, I mean I was having a dream that someone was attacking me and I threw a sack of potatoes at them. What I was really doing was throwing a pillow at my wife."

Though no other symptoms presented themselves, Alda stuck to his guns and got his doctor to order a scan.

"I didn't have any symptoms! The doctor said, 'Why do you want a scan, you don't have any symptoms?' And I said, 'I want to know if there's anything I can do, I want to do it before things start to show up,'" he recalled. "Months later, [there was] a little twitch in my thumb."

While the diagnosis is certainly tough news, Alda wants fans to know that he really is doing well.

"The thing I want folks to know -- and this not to short change people who are suffering with really severe symptoms, symptoms can get very bad and their families can suffer -- but in the very beginning to be immobilized by fear and to think the worst thing has happened to you, it hasn't happened to you," he said. "You still have things you can do. I'm taking boxing lessons three times a week. I do singles tennis a couple of times a week."

Following his appearance on CBS This Morning, Alda took to Twitter to share more about the reasons behind his decision to share his diagnosis.

"I decided to let people know I have Parkinson’s to encourage others to take action," he tweeted alongside a gif of him juggling. "I was diagnosed three and a half years ago, but my life is full. I act, I give talks, I do my podcast, which I love. If you get a diagnosis, keep moving!"

In a second tweet he even cracked a joke. "I take boxing lessons 3 days a week, play singles tennis twice a week, and take a mild pill – all Dr. recommended. I even juggle a little," he wrote. "And I’m not entering dementia. I’m no more demented than I was before. Maybe I should rephrase that. Really, I’m good."

Michael J. Fox also suffers from Parkinson's disease, and has been very vocal about the condition. Here's his story: