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Michael J. Fox: Parkinson’s Disease Never Stole His Smile

8 minute read


As everyone’s favorite high school hero who got to go Back to the Future, Michael J. Fox has been a beloved celebrity for decades. In courage and determination in the face of serious illness has become an inspiration on par with any of his screen performances, if not more so.

Despite being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease 26 years ago, Fox approaches life with zest and a smile on his face. Parkinson’s is a serious neurodegenerative disease that cripples thousands every year, but Fox’s story delivers all the motivation any person facing a disease like that will ever need.

No Sadness, Only Smiles

Bursting onto our screens as Alex Keaton in sitcom Family Ties, Fox was a lovable rogue we all rooted for. From here he went on to movie success with hit after hit, with each movie character brought to life by his charisma and boyish charm.

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Earning 18 Emmy nominations in his career (with the most recent being 2016), there is nothing this man cannot do. This is even more impressive when you learn that over two decades ago, doctors only gave him 10 working years.

The diagnosis of Parkinson’s was devastating, but the support of friends and family and a never-ending love of life propelled Fox through the hard times. Laughter proved to be the best medicine as he often reports that on most days he laughs at his symptoms.

For many, Parkinson’s marks a decline in health and quality of life, but by following Fox’s example, the disease can be taken head on, and your limits are only a perception.

Fox realized after the diagnosis that Parkinson’s patients are forced to deal with two things: the disease itself and people’s perception of the disease. People fear Parkinson’s, and he could see this in everybody he came across.

Their fears turned into fear for him and this impacted the way people treated him. Fox had accepted his diagnosis and resolved to not let it beat him. He was able to tell people he was doing great and it wasn’t to ease their fears—it was the truth.

It hasn’t all been as easy as Fox makes it look. The disease has added age to his face, but not enough to remove that boyish charm we all fell in love with in the eighties and nineties.

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The tremors can be a problem, but Fox finds a way to incorporate them into his roles and has created some unforgettable and interesting characters on screen. Remaining in the spotlight has allowed Parkinson’s to get some much-needed attention and understanding.

Understanding Parkinson’s Disease

The degenerative disease results in the loss of intentional movement and impaired motor function. Symptoms include loss of strength and balance, rigidity, trembling, and bradykinesia (slow or interrupted movements).

The smooth and natural movements of your body such as walking, talking, swallowing, and sleeping are affected. The physiological changes are not debilitating, but they can severely impact your daily life.

The cause of the disease originates in your brain. The area that controls muscular movements receives less dopamine than is required.

Dopamine is responsible for coordinating movements, learning, regulating moods, and affects motivation. Knowing this makes Fox’s attitude even more amazing.

Despite a lack of dopamine, his mood and motivation stayed in top form, pushing him through the difficult diagnosis.

What causes the dopamine levels to change is unknown, but it is thought to be related to inflammation and environmental toxins. There is also no cure, which is what creates fear for people.

Symptoms of Parkinson’s can be treated with medications, but over time, the body stops responding to these. This is why it is important to identify the disease early, so you can take measures to slow its progression.

A Small Blessing From the Sea

The best way to slow the disease is by adjusting your diet. Because inflammation is thought to be a major contributing factor, following and anti-inflammatory diet is a good place to start.

One of the most powerful anti-inflammatory compounds are omega-3 fatty acids, which can be found in krill oil supplements. These healthy fats are thought to protect your brain cells, which can prevent the development or progression of neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s.

Parkinson’s has been correlated to the development of mutated genes and misfolded proteins. The deformed proteins cannot be used by brain cells and result in toxic clumps that eventually kill the cell.

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Omega-3s found in krill oil protect brain cells from this harmful defect. DHA is the specific omega-3 that delivers these benefits, and it also produces a neuroprotection that promotes brain cell survival.

Krill oil provides several important benefits to brain health that can protect you from Parkinson’s and other neurodegenerative conditions.

Inflammation is reduced, which reduces stress and damage to brain cells. Chronic inflammation also weakens cells, making them more vulnerable to defects.

Neuron growth and synapse repair is accelerated in the presence of omega-3 fatty acids. Because your brain relies on neurons and synapses for signaling, this is important for maintaining communication with the body, specifically motor function in cases of Parkinson’s.

Glutamate and GABA production is stimulated. These are key neurotransmitter that regulate the body’s processes and the brain’s overall excitability.

Optimal dopamine levels are maintained. Since dopamine plays a critical role in motor function and most complex brain processes, krill oil fatty acids are a valuable resource in fighting Parkinson’s disease.

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Krill oil is a top source for the omega-3 fatty acids you need to protect your brain. Krill oil is favored over fish oil because it contains more DHA. Krill oil is also full of antioxidants, whereas fish oil oxidizes during digestion, potentially releasing harmful free radicals.

Additionally, the omega-3 fatty acids in krill oil are attached to phospholipids, which makes them more bioavailable and easier to absorb, delivering them to your brain much faster.

The Bottom Line

Fox showed that Parkinson’s disease does not have to be feared. Not being afraid has helped him stay active long after the doctors could have ever hoped.

With natural treatment options, such as krill oil and a positive outlook, you can live your life the way you want and not how the disease dictates it. Like Muhammad Ali, who lived with Parkinson’s for 32 years, Fox did not see quitting as an option.

His example teaches us to accept the disease, not fight it. Embrace the quirks, laugh at yourself, and become any character you want.

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