Cheryl Ladd: What My Mom’s RA Taught Me

Actress Cheryl Ladd opens up about her mother’s rheumatoid arthritis and the life lessons she’s learned along the way.

Linda Childers
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Cheryl Ladd made television history when she joined the iconic ’70s television show Charlie’s Angels. As Kris Munroe, a beautiful blond crime fighter, Cheryl showed no mercy when it came to apprehending the bad guys. That role led to portraying other strong women on television shows like Las Vegas, NCIS and Chuck, as well as in movies and on Broadway. And this year, Cheryl stars as another tough (but gentle) character, Mrs. Claus, in the Disney holiday movie, Santa Pups.

In real life, the 61-year-old actress and mother of two has learned about strength by watching her 78-year-old mother, Dolores, fight rheumatoid arthritis (RA) for the past 15 years. True to her nature, Dolores never let RA get the upper hand. She took control early by seeing her doctor soon after the first symptoms, including joint pain and swelling, began. By working with her rheumatologist, Dolores has been able to manage her condition with medication, daily exercise and her trademark upbeat attitude.

“My mom has always been a glass-half-full kind of person,” Cheryl says. “She’s my greatest role model and always taught her children not to sweat the small stuff.” Here, Cheryl shares a few more life lessons from mom.

Stay on top of symptoms
Because RA may have a genetic component, Cheryl pays extra attention to keeping herself healthy. In addition to maintaining her weight and exercising, she has periodic checkups to make sure she isn’t developing signs of a joint problem. “I experience some occasional stiffness as the result of being a gymnast and an athlete when I was younger,” Cheryl says. “My doctor explained that RA is different and is characterized by joint pain, swelling and heat, along with joint stiffness in the morning.”

Why it’s a good idea: A study in Arthritis & Rheumatism found that RA patients who were treated by a rheumatologist within three months of their first symptoms showed less joint damage on X-rays.

Pick an exercise you love
Cheryl takes a cue from her mom, who takes 10 to 15 minute walks every day. “On busy days, I like going on a walk with my 4-year-old Labradoodle, Crockett, and a girlfriend,” Cheryl says. “It’s not only a great way to exercise, it’s also a good chance to catch up with a friend.”

Why it’s a good idea: Guess what’s keeping folks with RA from burning about the same amount of weekly calories as those without RA? According to Cornell University researchers, it’s avoiding short bouts of everyday activities like walking—not long, vigorous workouts.

June 2012