Nov. 17, 2017 -- The Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. announced Friday that he has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.
Jackson, a civil rights icon and former presidential candidate, is 76 years old. A letter from Northwestern Medicine, included with Jackson’s statement, says Jackson was diagnosed in 2015.
In a statement released through his Rainbow PUSH Coalition, Jackson said he and his family began noticing changes in his health 3 years ago.
“For a while, I resisted interrupting my work to visit a doctor,” Jackson says in the statement. “But as my daily physical struggles intensified I could no longer ignore the symptoms, so I acquiesced.”
After a series of tests, Jackson says doctors diagnosed him with Parkinson’s, which his father also had.
While Jackson said the diagnosis is difficult, it “is not a stop sign but rather a signal that I must make lifestyle changes and dedicate myself to physical therapy in hopes of slowing the disease’s progression.”
Jackson was born in Greenville, SC, and was a confidante and associate of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. He ran for president as a Democrat in 1984 and in 1988.
President Bill Clinton awarded Jackson the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, in 2000.
Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative disorder that mainly affects nerve cells in a part of the brain that controls motor function and movement.
The cause is unknown and there is no cure. While Parkinson’s is not fatal, complications from the disease can be serious. The CDC ranks complications from Parkinson’s as the 14th-leading cause of death in the U.S. With treatment, including surgery and medication, patients are often able to manage symptoms well for many years.