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Jeremy Paxman ‘ought to stop doing’ University Challenge

Jeremy Paxman says doctor spotted his parkinson's from quiz show

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In the one-off documentary, Paxman: Putting Up with Parkinson’s, the 72-year-old said his health condition is “frustrating” to live with. Aside from the “extraordinary” and “amazing” dreams he currently has, he is aware how they can soon turn into nightmares. As his movements become more rigid, and his face becomes less expressive, Paxman is stepping down from his presenting role.

“I think I’ve been doing University Challenge for about 29 years, which is a very, very long time – too long really,” he said.

“The University Challenge people have been brilliant, but I do think that I ought to stop doing it. I will be sad to give it up, but no one is indispensable.”

The father-of-three continued: “It’ll become obvious that there’s something funny about me – and I mean unusual, not funny funny. So I don’t want to spoil it for them.”

Over time, the neurological condition will lead to more symptoms – and there is no cure.

There are over “40 symptoms of Parkinson;’s”, the charity Parkinson’s UK pointed out.

Most commonly, people who have the condition are likely to experience:

  • Tremor
  • Rigidity (stiffness)
  • Slowness of movement
  • Mild memory and thinking problems
  • Sleep problems
  • Pain
  • Mental health problems, including anxiety and depression.

What causes Parkinson’s disease?

The charity explained: “People with Parkinson’s don’t have enough of the chemical dopamine because some of the nerve cells that make it have died.

“We don’t yet know exactly why people get Parkinson’s, but researchers think it’s a combination of age, genetic and environmental factors that cause the dopamine-producing nerve cells to die.”

Dopamine enables messages to be sent to parts of the brain that co-ordinate movement.

Early signs of Parkinson’s

The Parkinson’s Foundation highlighted 10 early warning signs of depleting dopamine levels.

These include: a tremor; small handwriting; a loss of smell; trouble sleeping; and trouble moving and walking.

Other early indications of Parkinson’s can include constipation, a soft or low voice, a masked face, dizziness or fainting, or stooping when standing.

When Paxman had fell over walking his dog, before his diagnosis, it was his masked face that had medics test for Parkinson’s.

“It turned out that [the doctor] had been watching University Challenge and had noticed that my face had acquired what’s known as the Parkinson’s mask.

“I wasn’t as effusive and exuberant as normal. I had no idea.”

Anybody diagnosed with Parkinson’s in the UK will have access to treatment that could help relieve symptoms.

Treatment can include physiotherapy, medication, and surgery; a care plan will be agreed between you and your healthcare team.

“For some people with Parkinson’s disease, making dietary changes can help improve some symptoms,” the NHS adds.

Examples include increasing the amount of fibre, and eating small, frequent meals.

Jeremy Paxman is on BBC Two’s University Challenge, Tuesday, October 25 at 7.30pm.

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  • Posted on November 8, 2022