Billy Crystal health: ‘I just can’t remember’ – actor, 74, on his deteriorating memory

Billy Crystal health: ‘I just can’t remember’ – actor, 74, on his deteriorating memory


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In celebration of his illustrious career, earlier this year Crystal was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 27th annual Critics Choice Awards. To make the award even more special it was handed to him on the eve of his 74th birthday. True to his nature Crystal accepted the award humbly and even cracked some jokes in light of his upcoming birthday.

The actor shared: “Tomorrow is my birthday, and I’m going to be 74 years old, and as Jimmy [Kimmel] mentioned, I’m about to open in a Broadway musical.

“I can’t remember when I worked harder or had more fun on a project, and I’m serious. I’ll be 74 tomorrow, I actually just can’t remember.”

Having made the audience erupt with laughter Crystal continued to poke fun at his age, as well as the daunting thought of being given the Lifetime Achievement Award.

He joked: “This is the lifetime achievement award, which is a little scary when they say they want to give it to you. So, I called my doctors and I said, ‘Do they know something that I don’t?’”

Despite ageing and the health complications that may come with it, Crystal is certainly not slowing down his career or thinking about retiring like some of his co-stars may be.

In fact, he finished his speech by saying: “I’ve been so blessed to work with such amazing people my entire career, which is now in its 50th year… But what’s exciting about it is so much more to come, that’s what’s exciting at this point in my life.”

Having just bagged a lead role in the Broadway musical version of his hit film Mr. Saturday Night the Monsters Inc voice actor said that he is happy with the level he is working at and remains grateful that he still has the level of health to be able to do so.

Keeping his health intact is no easy feat, and back in late 2021 Crystal gave some insight into his daily exercise routine which involves a workout with a speeding ball.

When asked how often he does the specific workout Crystal replied: “I try to do it every day, at least five, six days,” he replied. “And then I have a big eggplant parmesan hero!”

Showing his more serious side, when asked about the “no-so great” things that come with getting older Crystal once again brought up his gradually deteriorating memory.

He said: “Well, first of all, you’re getting older. But, hey, I’ll take it, you know? Ummm… memory!

“I think of myself sometimes, with my attitude, I’m like the Heisman Trophy. I’m just gonna straight-arm whatever’s comin’ at me and just avoid being tackled, until it’s time to be tackled.

“But, you know, I think it’s how you take care of yourself. It’s what you put into your body. It’s what you don’t put into your body. That, you know, that helps.”

Despite his comments, there is no need to be concerned about Crystal’s mention of memory loss as in the majority of cases it is a natural part of getting older. This occurs as a result of changes in the brain which also explains why older individuals may take longer to learn something new or lose things more often.

However, as the Mayo Clinic states, the key difference between normal age-related memory loss and something potentially more serious is the impact and disruption that it causes on an individual’s life. In some cases memory loss may be caused by something common and treatable like:

  • Stress
  • Anxiety or depression
  • Sleeping problems (insomnia).

On the other end of the spectrum, memory loss can be an early sign of dementia which is the umbrella term given to describe a set of symptoms, including impairment in memory, reasoning, judgement, language and other thinking skills.

In addition to memory loss, other symptoms of dementia that develop early on can include:

  • Asking the same questions repeatedly
  • Forgetting common words when speaking
  • Mixing words up — saying bed instead of table
  • Taking longer to complete familiar tasks, such as following a recipe
  • Misplacing items in inappropriate places, such as putting a wallet in a kitchen drawer
  • Getting lost while walking or driving in a familiar area
  • Having changes in mood or behaviour for no apparent reason.

If you are worried about dementia or know someone that is, it is recommended that you seek advice from a GP, especially if they are older than 65. Although there is currently no cure for dementia, an early diagnosis may help individuals to get the right treatment.

In some cases individuals may be diagnosed with a condition known as mild cognitive impairment (MCI). This is known as an “intermediate stage” between normal age-related cognitive changes and the more serious symptoms that indicate dementia.

The key difference between MCI and dementia is that individuals will still be able to function in their daily lives without relying on others. It is important to note that while many people with MCI eventually develop Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia, that doesn’t mean it’s inevitable. Some people with MCI plateau at a relatively mild stage of decline while others even return to normal.

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