Muhammad Ali died at the age of 74 after suffering from Parkinson's for 32 years. Blood poisoning immediately led to his death, but it spread because his body was already weakened by the disease.
Loss of body control
Since 1984 the most famous boxer of all time knew that he suffered from this brain disease; Affected people lose control over their body movements.
The messenger substance dopamine passes on the information with which the brain controls body movements. In Parkinson's, the body no longer produces the substance. If this substance is missing, the affected person tremble, their muscles in their arms and legs stiffen, and the language sounds blurry. They can hardly smell anymore, they suffer from constipation and erection problems.
Around 5 million people worldwide suffer from the disease. The Parkinson Fund assumes 300,000 people in Germany are affected. Most of the time, the patient is around 60 years old when the disease breaks out.
A diagnosis is often only possible after years because the first symptoms such as hand tremors also occur with other diseases. Slow movements can be signs of Pakinson, but need not be. The same applies to beating while sleeping: a first symptom of Parkinson's. Later, the patients can often no longer walk and can no longer organize everyday life.
A deadly disease?
Parkinson's disease itself is not fatal, but cell death damages the organism immensely, so that those affected often die from complications that affect the weakened body. Muhammad Ali's blood poisoning is one of these complications.
Consequences of the disease
The muscle weakness of the sufferer triggers lung complaints. The sick can hardly cough and swallow, so that food gets into the lungs and the organ is inflamed.
Parkinson's is not curable. However, medications such as levodopa or selegiline relieve the symptoms. Those affected often survive for several decades.
The brain converts levodopa to dopamine. Selegiline in turn prevents the body from breaking down dopamine.
Physiotherapy and psychotherapy
Muhammad Ali did not give up and fought the disease with daily training. Exercise, also in the form of physiotherapy, is just as important as psychotherapy to counteract the progression of Parkinson's.
In 2015 researchers reported: New brain pacemaker helps with Parkinson's. With a neurosurgical intervention, they insert electrodes in the brain and connect them to an electrical stimulator. While this doesn't cure the disease, it does curb the symptoms. (Dr. Utz Anhalt)