The World Health Organization estimates that 235 million people currently suffer from asthma. With a number that monolithic, there are bound to be some famous faces in the massive crowd of people who call themselves asthmatics. And there are. From presidents to rock stars, Olympic athletes to legendary authors, many historical figures and modern celebrities grappled with the condition their whole lives and still managed to live out their dreams! Here are 10 of the world’s most famous asthmatics.
John F. Kennedy
The beloved 35th President of the United States may have been a living personification of youth and vigor, but files from his presidential archive indicate that the late leader also suffered from asthma, in addition to other various illnesses. Despite this setback, Kennedy always maintained a strong appearance out in public, and could often be seen exercising (Swimming and sailing were two of his favorites).
Ludwig Von Beethoven
It’s common knowledge that this legendary German composer was deaf in his later years. It turns out, however, that Beethoven was a lifelong asthmatic as well – he experienced symptoms from the age of 5, and had a weak chest for the rest of his life. He wasn’t too fond of his caregivers, either: it’s written that he called them “bumbling doctors” and “medical asses.”
You’ve probably read at least one work by this famous English novelist at some point in your life, be it Oliver Twist, A Christmas Carol, or David Copperfield. Dickens suffered from asthma his entire life, but he didn’t use a nebulizer or inhaler. Standard treatments in Victorian England ranged from coffee (not so bad) to opium and arsenic (yikes!).
Yep, you read that right. The world’s greatest soccer – er, football – player has asthma since he was a boy! Beckham managed to keep his condition under wraps for years, until the notorious British press photographed him using an inhaler. The star later insisted that his asthma would not stand in the way of his future as a footballer, and true to his word, Beckham will retire one of the most lauded athletes in his sport.
Before he became a Bull Moose, the 26th President of the United States started out his life a sickly child. His debilitating asthma prevented him from playing outside or going to school, and the remedies of the time (coffee, whiskey, even smoking cigars!) didn’t do much to improve his condition. Exercise, however, did help – and it helped make Teddy into the strong man he was destined to become.
Nobody is immune to asthma attacks, even the Piano Man himself! Back in 1998, on the opening night of a new concert tour with Elton John, Joel suffered an acute asthma attack onstage (believed to have been caused by an upper respiratory infection), forcing him to cancel a show later that week. Not that it mattered in the long run – Joel is the third-best-selling solo artist in American history.
The Academy-Award-winning actress, director, producer, and screenwriter developed asthma in her adult years, and even played an asthmatic cat lover in the 1990 film The Lemon Sisters. Asthma played a large role in that film – Keaton’s character had to weigh her love for her feline friends with their asthma-triggering dander.
Widely regarded as one of the greatest directors of all time, Martin Scorcese has suffered from severe, chronic asthma ever since he was young. The disease may have played a role in sparking the young Scorsese’s interest in film – he has cited his condition as a reason that adults would take him to the theatre, rather than the park or sports field. Allegedly, it also kept him off the streets; in 2010, Scorcese reportedly admitted to Michael Ballhaus, his longtime director of photography, that he would have turned to crime had his asthma not forced him to stay indoors.
Known for his bad-boy personality, obnoxious behavior, and for being Madonna’s ex-boyfriend (and oh yeah, he played basketball with Michael Jordan too), Dennis Rodman dealt with exercise-induced asthma all through his career. Never one to back down, Rodman’s condition couldn’t stop him from being a hothead on and off the court.
The Mean Girls star has had bronchial asthma since she was little, and has been hospitalized for asthma attacks several times. In the past, Lohan’s fits have been severe enough that they’ve resulted in ruptured arteries – luckily, her status as a Hollywood A-lister means that she receives the best medical treatment possible.
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