The chemicals in your garage that may raise risk of incurable muscle-wasting disease that killed Stephen Hawking

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What is it? 

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a neurogenerative disorder which impacts the nerve cells in the spinal cord and the brain, according to the Mayo Clinic. It gets progressively worse and causes significant muscle control loss in people who have it. 

Treatment 

There is no cure for ALS and the disease is fatal, but it progresses at different speeds in patients. 

Symptoms

The first signs of ALS are twitching of the muscles, weaknesses of the limbs and problems with swallowing and speaking. Progressively, it deteriorates muscle control and impacts an individual’s ability to breathe, move, speak and eat.

ALS symptoms correspond with where nerve cells deteriorate in each person, and could lead to issues walking, tripping, and weakness of the knees, ankles and hands.

It can also lead to problems with muscle cramps and twitching in areas including one’s tongue, arms and shoulders. People with ALS have experienced untimely spells of laughter, tears and yawns, as well as changes to one’s thinking process or behavior, according to the clinic.

Risk factors 

Among the risk factors researchers have established for ALS include genetics, as about 10 percent of people diagnosed with it were passed down a gene from a relative, which is called hereditary ALS, according to the clinic. Kids of people who have hereditary ALS have a 50 percent chance of having the gene.

Age is also a factor as the risk of getting the disease trends up toward the age of 75, with the most common range of people who have it between 60 and 85. In terms of gender, men are diagnosed with a higher rate of ALS prior to the age of 65, according to the clinic.

Other factors that have been linked to ALS include smoking and exposure to toxic substances. The clinic reported that military personnel have been diagnosed with ALS at a higher rate.

Causes

There is no known cause of ALS, according to the Mayo Clinic, and heredity plays a factor in a small number of cases. 

Lou Gehrig was one of baseball’s preeminent stars while playing for the Yankees between 1923 and 1939. Known as ‘The Iron Horse,’ he played in 2,130 consecutive games before ALS forced him to retire. The record was broken by Cal Ripken Jr. in 1995 

Lou Gehrig’s Disease

As well as being known as ALS, it is frequently referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Lou Gehrig was a stalwart first baseman for the New York Yankees between 1923 and 1939. He was famous for his strength and durability, earning the nickname ‘The Iron Horse’ with a record-setting streak of 2,130 consecutive games.

In a July 4, 1939 speech on Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day at Yankee Stadium, the ballplayer famously said, ‘For the past two weeks you have been reading about a bad break. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.’

His popularity and fame transcended the sport of baseball. He died two years after his diagnosis on June 2, 1941.

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