ALS …what you need to know about the disease and how you can help

How to Support the ALS Community

Boomers are called the Greatest Generation, and in our opinion, one of the best defining features of this bunch is that they care about issues, want to learn about them and help when possible. So, we are going to do a quick educational bit about ALS and why it’s one of the many health-related issues worthy of Boomer support.

What is ALS? Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Motor neurons travel from the brain to the spinal cord to the muscles throughout the body. The progressive degeneration of the motor neurons in ALS leads to their demise, then the brain loses the ability to initiate and control muscle movement. With voluntary muscle action gradually affected, people may lose the ability to speak, eat, move and breathe.

ALS usually strikes people between the ages of 40 and 70 (this is you and your friends, dear Boomers), and it is estimated there are at least 16,000 Americans who have the disease at any given time. Notable individuals who have been diagnosed with ALS include baseball great Lou Gehrig and theoretical physicist, cosmologist and author Stephen Hawking.

There are two different types of ALS, sporadic and familial. Sporadic, the most common form of the disease in the U.S., accounts for up to 95 percent of all cases. Familial ALS (FALS) accounts for the remaining 5 percent of all cases in the U.S. Familial ALS means the disease is inherited. In those families, there is a 50% chance each offspring will inherit the gene mutation and could develop the disease.

Recently, scientific breakthroughs illuminate the physiology of this disease. There are four drugs approved by the U.S. FDA to treat ALS. People with ALS may experience a better quality of life by participating in support groups and attending an ALS Association Certified Treatment Center of Excellence or a Recognized Treatment Center. So, Boomers, if you have a friend or loved one with ALS, look into transporting them to or from these centers or meetings. Such Centers provide a national standard of best-practice multidisciplinary care to help manage the symptoms of the disease and assist people living with ALS to maintain as much independence as possible for as long as possible.

How else can YOU help?