Alzheimer's disease conceptWhen you think of classic, glamorous Hollywood, a few names come to mind. Omar Sharif is definitely among them. The Egyptian-born actor became a household name after his performance in the 1962 epic, Lawrence of Arabia. Despite it being just his first English-language film, Sharif’s portrayal of Sherif Ali opposite Peter O’Toole was incredible enough to earn him an Oscar nomination.

Over the years, Sharif brought his unique talents to many acclaimed films such as his turn in the title role of Doctor Zhivago (opposite Julie Christie) and alongside Barbra Streisand in Funny Girl.

Sadly, the man who has had to remember and deliver so many lines over the years is not struggling with memory loss. His son, Tarek Sharif, has revealed that the legendary actor has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. Omar Sharif’s agent, Steve Kenis, has confirmed the news.

Alzheimer’s has been in the spotlight recently due to campaigns to raise awareness as well as Julianne Moore’s performance about a young linguistics professor battling the disorder in 2014 film, Still Alice. Still, most people know very little about the illness.

The Alzheimer’s Association has put together 10 warning signs to help people recognize the symptoms. They include:

  1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life
  2. Challenges in planning or solving problems
  3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure
  4. Confusion with time or place
  5. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
  6. New problems with words in speaking or writing
  7. Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
  8. Decreased or poor judgment
  9. Withdrawal from work or social activities
  10. Changes in mood or personality

While Omar Sharif, at 83 years old, is among the most common demographic, in terms of age, affected by Alzheimer’s, it’s important to know that it can occur at any age. It can be scary if you, or someone you care about, begins experiencing any of the above symptoms but it is better to see a healthcare professional as soon as possible to rule out Alzheimer’s Disease or any other serious health condition. Ignoring the problem won’t make it go away. In fact, it could make things worse.

As is usually true, early intervention and treatment can make a huge difference in a person’s prognosis and quality of life.  Among other benefits, early detection of Alzheimer’s may increase the time needed to explore a variety of treatment options which can allow those afflicted to remain independent for a longer period of time. Clearly, minimizing the negative effects on a person’s life is the ideal situation.

Hopefully, Omar Sharif, whose son, Tarek, is his only child, has a strong support system around him and will have access to the best care to keep him as comfortable as possible as he adjusts to his diagnosis.