Bruce Willis Diagnosed With Dementia: Here’s What You Need To Know About The Condition - Men's Health Magazine Australia

Bruce Willis Diagnosed With Dementia: Here’s What You Need To Know About The Condition

Family of Bruce Willis have today announced an update to his retirement due to aphasia, saying the star has now been diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia.

The Internet was in a state of collective shock when Bruce Willis retired from acting in May of 2022. Aged 67, Willis appeared to be an actor who never aged, but rather remained the action hero we grew up with watching on the big screen. From Pulp Fiction to Die Hard, Willis has continued to deliver some of the most iconic characters in pop culture history, gifting us the witty one-liners and comedic dialogue exchanges that have made him beloved to audiences around the world. 

But when a statement from the star’s family announced he would be stepping back from acting due to aphasia, fans and colleagues alike were quick to voice their support for the star. Now, his family has shared an update on Willis’ health, revealing his condition has progressed to see him diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia. 

In a statement posted to the website for the Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration, Willis’ family – wife Emma Heming, ex-wife Demi Moore and daughters Rumer, Scout, Tallulah, Mabel and Evelyn – shared his diagnosis. “While this is painful, it is a relief to finally have a clear diagnosis,” they wrote. 

The statement continued: “FTD is a cruel disease that many of us have never heard of and [which] can strike anyone. For people under 60, FTD is the most common form of dementia, and because getting the diagnosis can take years, FTD is likely much more prevalent than we know.

“Today, there are no treatments for the disease, a reality that we hope can change in the years ahead. As Bruce’s condition advances, we hope that any media attention can be focused on shining a light on this disease that needs far more awareness and research.”  

Willis, whose retirement was largely promoted by issues with language and memory, which in turn led to rumours surrounding his cognitive state, has always looked to use his voice in support of others and it seems clear that his family is now doing the same. “We know in our hearts that – if he could today – he would want to respond by bringing global attention and a connectedness with those who are also dealing with this debilitating disease and how it impacts so many individuals and their families,” the statement continued. 

FTD is the cause of approximately 10 to 20 per cent of dementia cases, and while it can be misdiagnosed as a psychiatric problem or Alzheimer’s disease, it tends to occur at a younger age than the latter, often beginning between the ages of 40 and 65. According to the Mayo Clinic, FTD is the umbrella term for a group of brain disorders that primarily affect the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain that are associated with personality, behaviour and language. 

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While symptoms vary depending on which part of the brain is affected, those with FTD often experience dramatic changes in their personalities and become socially inappropriate, impulsive or emotionally indifferent. Others can find that they lose the ability to use language properly, finding it difficult to name things, experiencing hesitant speech and no longer knowing word meanings. Other motor-related issues include muscle spasms or twitches, poor coordination and difficulty swallowing. 

Though there are genetic mutations that have been linked to FTD, doctors note that more than half of the people who develop FTD have no family history of dementia. Currently, more research needs to be done to better understand the condition and its causes. 

“Bruce has always found joy in life – and has helped everyone he knows to do the same. It has meant the world to see that sense of care echoed back to him and to all of us. We have been so moved by the love you have all shared for our dear husband, father, and friend during this difficult time,” Willis’ family wrote in the statement. 

“Your continued compassion, understanding, and respect will enable us to help Bruce live as full a life as possible.”

By Jessica Campbell

Jess is a storyteller committed to sharing the human stories that lie at the heart of sport.

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