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This Is the One Thing Michael J. Fox Wants You to Know About Parkinson's

The actor shares his advice regarding the difficult diagnosis.

Ever since Michael J. Fox went public with his Parkinson's disease diagnosis in 1998, he has been an outspoken advocate for those with the disorder. His foundation, The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research, has raised over a billion dollars for Parkinson's research, and the actor has continued to share his experience witth the public, which has undoubtedly helped numerous other Parkinson's patients. Now, in a new interview with AARP the Magazine, Fox has shared his advice for those living with Parkinson's, including what he believes they should and shouldn't do to maintain a positive outlook. Read on to find out what Fox had to say about the advice he follows himself.

RELATED: Michael J. Fox Just Gave an Update on His Parkinson's Symptoms.

Fox urges those with Parkinson's to stay active.

Michael J. Fox playing guitar at A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Cure Parkinson's gala 2021
Noam Galai/Getty Images for The Michael J. Fox Foundation

In the AARP the Magazine interview, Fox was asked what advice he has for living with Parkinson's, and he suggested that anyone who has been diagnosed with it stay as active and social as possible. "Have an active life and do not let yourself get isolated and marginalized," Fox said. "You can live with it. People sometimes say that a relative or a parent or a friend died of Parkinson's. You don't die of Parkinson's. You die with Parkinson's, because once you have it, you have it for life—until we can remedy that, and we're working hard at it."

He continued, "So, to live with it, you need to exercise and be in shape and to eat well. If you can't drive, find a way to get around. Maintain friendships. Don't say, 'Oh, I don't have anything to say to Bob.' Bob might have something to say to you. Just make the call."

Still, Fox has had to make some adjustments. 

Tracy Pollan and Michael J. Fox at the NHL100 Gala in 2017
Joe Seer / Shutterstock

In an effort to keep active, the things that Fox spends his time doing have changed. "Even though Parkinson's is progressive and diminishes what you're physically able to do, he's found ways to shift the focus to what he has rather than what he doesn't have," Fox's longtime collaborator Nelle Fortenberry told AARP. "That's how he's managed to bring new things into his life—writing, golf—to fill in for what he's lost along the way. And these things don't take energy. They generate it."

Fox noted that he has come to accept that certain things are easier with help, too. "I've ceded a lot of things over. If I feel at all rushed and I have to do something multiple times, it's just not going to serve me," he said. "When I was putting on my shoes the other day, [wife] Tracy [Pollan] said, 'You want some help with that?' I said, 'Well, it will take me a couple of minutes to put my shoes on. If you do it, it'll take a minute.' So, you weigh it up."

He also retired from acting.

Michael J. Fox at the premiere of "Very Ralph" in October 2019
Debby Wong / Shutterstock

In the interview, Fox noted that he was able to take on roles over the years that allowed him to incorporate his Parkinson's diagnosis, such as Louis on The Good Wife. But, last year, he decided to stop acting. "When I couldn't act the way I used to act, I found new ways to act," the 60-year-old star explained. "But then I reached the point where I couldn't rely on my ability to speak on any given day, which meant I couldn't act comfortably at all anymore. So, last year I gave it up."

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He's optimistic about Parkinson's, but realistic, too.

Michael J. Fox at Tribeca Talks Storytellers in April 2019
Ron Adar / Shutterstock

Fox tends to speak with great optimism about life and the progress that's been made in Parkinson's research. In October, he spoke to Variety about how research that has been done thanks to his foundation has led to therapies that are actually helping himself and others. He also said of finding a cure, "I'm committed to this. I won't stop until it happens."

But, while he's still fighting for that breakthrough, he's also realistic about the time it might take. "As I wrote in my latest book, I'm now out of the lemonade business," he told AARP. "I'm really blunt with people about cures. When they ask me if I will be relieved of Parkinson's in my lifetime, I say, 'I'm 60 years old, and science is hard. So, no.'"

He believes gratitude is a practiced thing.

Michael J. Fox at A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Cure Parkinson's gala in 2021
Noam Galai/Getty Images for The Michael J. Fox Foundation

In addition to the advice he gave for those living with Parkinson's, Fox also shared some words of wisdom that can apply to anyone. He explained that while going through a rough time in his life, he thought about his father-in-law, who "always espoused gratitude and acceptance and confidence." This led Fox to realize that "gratitude makes optimism sustainable."

He continued, "And if you don't think you have anything to be grateful for, keep looking. Because you don't just receive optimism. You can't wait for things to be great and then be grateful for that. You've got to behave in a way that promotes that."

RELATED: See Michael J. Fox's 4 Kids All Grown Up.

Lia Beck
Lia Beck is a writer living in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to Best Life, she has written for Refinery29, Bustle, Hello Giggles, InStyle, and more. Read more
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