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Asthma and Allergies

11 Famous Figures Who Have Grappled With Asthma

Asthma is a prevalent health concern that affects countless millions across the world and throughout history. Read about these famous icons who have suffered from the condition.

1. John F. Kennedy

Elected in 1960 as the 35th president of the United States, John F. Kennedy became the youngest man to hold the Oval Office. Files from Kennedy’s presidential archive reveal that he suffered from asthma that was triggered by allergies to pet dander and dust.

2. Ludwig van Beethoven

Millions of people can identify Beethoven’s prolific compositions within seconds. What most of his fans don’t know is that he was a lifelong asthmatic who began experiencing symptoms at the age of 5. He also suffered from severe tinnitus and the associated loss of hearing.

3. David Beckham

David Beckham is one of the most iconic athletes of all time. In 2009, he opened up about his health after being photographed using an inhaler during a soccer match in Los Angeles. “I’ve got a slight case of asthma which I’ve had for years,” he shared at a press conference. He maintains that asthma hasn’t negatively impacted his career. “I’ve played 65 games a season for the last 20 years, so it doesn’t affect the future.”

4. Diane Keaton

The Oscar-winning actress has been dazzling audiences in films like “Annie Hall” and “The First Wives Club” for decades. Keaton has battled asthma and other breathing problems since childhood. In the 1989 film “The Lemon Sisters,” Keaton plays an asthmatic cat lover who refuses to abandon her furry friends, even though they worsen her condition.

5. Charles Dickens

Over the course of his career, Charles Dickens penned several classic novels, including “Oliver Twist,” “A Tale of Two Cities” and “A Christmas Carol.” The iconic wordsmith suffered from asthma throughout his life, but didn’t use an inhaler. In Victorian England, treatments ranged from cups of coffee to opium and arsenic.

6. Elizabeth Taylor

Pop culture icon Elizabeth Taylor faced several debilitating conditions throughout her life, including severe back problems, congestive heart failure, skin cancer, a benign brain tumor and asthma. Ironically enough, Elizabeth launched a multi-billion-dollar perfume franchise, even though chemicals in scented products are known to trigger serious reactions in people with asthma.

7. Bono

Bono, born Paul David Hewson, is the front man of one of the most popular rock bands of all time and has one of the most influential voices in the music industry. However, most fans are unaware that off stage, he and one of his children manage the symptoms of asthma. 

8. Jessica Alba

Actress and entrepreneur Jessica Alba has long struggled with asthma. In an interview with SELF magazine, the star revealed that she was a “sickly kid” and regularly had pneumonia. “I had really bad asthma and was in the hospital a lot from the ages of 4 to 12,” she shared.

9. Jackie Joyner-Kersee

Track and field athlete Jackie Joyner-Kersee has won three Olympic gold medals, as well as two bronze and one silver. She was diagnosed with asthma while studying at UCLA, and suffered a life-threatening asthma attack years later. “I finally learned I had to respect asthma as much as I would an opponent,” she told Sports Illustrated.

10. Billy Joel

In 1998, the “New York State of Mind” singer suffered an acute asthma attack on stage. Today, the piano man is happy and healthy, performing to sold-out crowds at Madison Square Garden each month.

11. Martin Scorsese

The esteemed director responsible for “Taxi Driver” and “The Departed” has been living with chronic asthma since adolescence, but his symptoms worsened considerably when he moved from New York to Los Angeles in the 1970s. Scorsese claims his condition negatively impacted his productivity. “I never really got much sleep at night… I’d wake up coughing,” he recalled.

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