ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) Awareness Month

You might not know what ALS stands for but I bet you know some high-profile people who have or had ALS. 

Notable individuals who have been diagnosed with ALS include:

  • Baseball great Lou Gehrig
  • Theoretical physicist, cosmologist and author Stephen Hawking
  • Hall of Fame pitcher Jim “Catfish” Hunter
  • U.S. Senator Jacob Javits
  • Actor David Niven
  • “SpongeBob SquarePants” creator Stephen Hillenburg
  • “Sesame Street” creator Jon Stone
  • Jazz musician Charles Mingus
  • Singer/songwriter Kim Shattuck (The Muffs)
  • Bassist Mike Porcaro (Toto)
  • Musician Huddie Ledbetter (Lead Belly)
  • Theatre producer Jenifer Estess
  • Boxing champion Ezzard Charles
  • NBA Hall of Fame basketball player George Yardley
  • Golf caddie Bruce Edwards
  • Photographer Eddie Adams
  • Entertainer Dennis Day
  • Former U.S. Vice President Henry A. Wallace
  • U.S. Army General Maxwell Taylor
  • NFL football player Steve Gleason
  • NFL football player O.J. Brigance
  • NFL football player Tim Shaw

Understanding ALS

ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. There is no cure for ALS yet.

ALS causes these motor neurons to degenerate over time until they eventually die. When the motor neurons die, the brain can no longer initiate and control muscle movement. When voluntary muscle action is progressively affected, people may lose the ability to speak, eat, move and breathe.

Who Gets ALS?

Every 90 minutes, someone is diagnosed with the disease, and someone passes away from it.

Most people who develop ALS are between the ages of 40 and 70, with an average age of 55 at the time of diagnosis. However, cases of the disease do occur in people in their twenties and thirties.

ALS is 20% more common in men than women. However, with increasing age, the incidence of ALS is more equal between men and women.

About 90% of ALS cases occur without any known family history or genetic cause. The remaining 10% of ALS cases are inherited through a mutated gene with a known connection to the disease.

For unknown reasons, military veterans are more likely to be diagnosed with the disease than the general public.

You can gather genetic information by having your DNA tested with a company like, 23&Me. Along with the history of your ancestors, you get information on any risk factors in your DNA for diseases. And they show all of your DNA relatives who’ve joined 23&Me and what percentage of DNA you share.  

ALS is a brutal disease without a cure, make sure you know the warning signs and get help right away if having symptoms. The disease doesn’t discriminate between men and women or age groups.  




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