Everything You Need to Know About ALS

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From Steven Hawking to Lou Gehrig & many other famous people who have been diagnosed with ALS. Here are some things you need to know about ALS – Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

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What Is It?
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as ALS, motor neuron or Lou Gehrig’s. They handle communication from the brain to muscles that produce movements such as talking, chewing or walking. As ALS progresses, these neurons degenerate. In the final stages, the brain can no longer initiate and control voluntary movement. ALS is slightly more common in men than in women and it usually occurs in people that are between the ages of 40 and 70, with 55 being the average.
What Is It Caused By?
In the majority of ALS cases the cause isn’t known, but the main suspects are genetic and environmental factors. There are about 20 genes associated with the onset of familial ALS and, out of all of them, a defect of the C9orf72 gene has been identified in 40% of cases. A lot less is known about sporadic ALS, for which there have been numerous studies yielding various inconclusive culprits.
Number 3 Lou Gehrig
ALS is sometimes commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig’s, after the American baseball player that was diagnosed with it in 1939. Known as the ‘The Iron Horse’ for his batting average and longevity in the sport, Lou Gehrig led the New York Yankees to six World Series championships, between 1923 and 1939. Throughout his 17 seasons in Major League Baseball, Gehrig only played for the Yankees. His records for most career grand slams and for most consecutive games played went unbroken for many years. His game streak ended in May, 1939, when he made the surprising decision to take himself out of the lineup. His batting average had dropped and it was evident that his coordination as well as his ability to run the bases was off. He retired from professional baseball at 36, after he was diagnosed. Upon his retirement, he made one of the greatest speeches in sports history, known as the ‘Luckiest Man on the Face of the Earth’ speech at Yankee Stadium. After his retirement, Gehrig wrote ‘I intend to hold on as long as possible and if the inevitable comes, I will accept it philosophically and hope for the best.
How?
Initial symptoms can include muscle twitches in the leg, arm, shoulder or tongue. Muscles may begin to develop cramps and become tight or stiff. Other symptoms involve difficulty chewing or swallowing as well as slurred and nasal speech. Initial signs can also occur in a leg, with the person tripping or stumbling more often when they are walking or running. Although progression varies in each case, the sufferer eventually won’t be able get out of bed on their own, stand, walk or use their hands and arms.
Number 2 Stephen Hillenburg
As a child in California, Stephen Hillenburg developed a fascination for the ocean and became interested in art. In 1984, he began his professional career as an instructor of marine biology at the Orange County Marine Institute. His passion for animation eventually led him to enroll in the California Institute of Arts. In 1994 he started to develop the concepts and characters for what would become the ‘SpongeBob SquarePants’ animated series. The cartoon was a worldwide phenomenon and earned Hillenburg two Emmy Awards and six Annie Awards. In addition to his work in animation, Hillenburg also made efforts to raise marine life awareness. In 2017, he disclosed in an interview with Variety magazine, that he’d been diagnosed with ALS. He stated that he would continue to work on the SpongeBob series for as long as possible.
How?
The Internet phenomenon known as the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge managed to raise awareness and $115 million for the ALS Association, with the aim of funding research.
Number 1 Stephen Hawking
British physicist, cosmologist and author Stephen William Hawking is remembered as one of the most brilliant scientific minds in history. He was diagnosed with ALS in 1963. At first he used crutches to get around but was eventually confined to a wheelchair, for the rest of his life. He was able to communicate by using an electronic speech-generating device operated by a single functioning muscle in his cheek. However, despite his physical limitations, Hawking’s mind gifted the world a plethora of scientific and mathematical theories. Between 1979 and 2009, he was the Professor of Mathematics at the prestigious University of Cambridge. He was the first to propose a theory of cosmology through the union of quantum mechanics and the general theory of relativity. He worked with Sir Roger Penrose on gravitational singularity theorems in the context of general relativity.

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