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Behind #icebucketchallenge: 19 Things You Should Know About ALS

Behind #icebucketchallenge: 19 Things You Should Know About ALS

The “Ice Bucket Challenge” has been all over social media lately. Basically, the idea is that participants in the challenge film themselves getting doused in ice water in support of the ALS Association. Participants nominate friends and family to either complete the ice bucket challenge as well, or to donate to the ALS Association (most people are expected to donate around $100).

With all of the attention and donations that the ALSA has been getting (the organization has so far raised $88.5 million), many people still aren’t sure what ALS is. The point of the challenge is to raise awareness of the disease and to raise money to fight it, but not everyone is as informed as they could be. So consider this your comprehensive guide to all things ALS and educate yourself a little bit before participating in that bucket challenge.

Who gets ALS?

1. ALS stands for Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

It is also known as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease,” as American baseball player Lou Gehrig was diagnosed with the disease in his mid-30s, thus ending his career with the Yankees. ALS is what is known as a motor neuron disease.

2. Genetics is a risk factor.

According to the Mayo Clinic, between 5-10 % of people with the disease inherited it from a parent. Children of people with ALS have approximately a 50/50 chance of getting the disease.

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3. Smoking is also a factor.

Smokers have a greater chance of getting the disease than nonsmokers. The longer the smoker has been smoking, the greater the chance of getting ALS. Quitting can reduce these chances.

4. Middle age is when most are diagnosed.

Most people diagnosed with ALS are between the ages of 40 and 60.

What is ALS?

5. ALS causes nerve cells to die.

Nerve cells in ALS sufferers break down and eventually die, which leads to extreme difficulty in controlling muscle movement.

6. It starts with twitching.

In many ALS patients, the first signs of the disease are twitching in the arms and legs. Weakness in the limbs is also a possible sign of the disease.

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7. It eventually leads to bigger problems.

After diagnosis, most people only live for around 2-5 years, according to the ALS Association. People with ALS eventually have difficulty doing many basic tasks and struggle with speech. Near the end, people with ALS cannot swallow, and eventually, cannot breathe.

8. It is not contagious.

No one with ALS can give it to anyone else. This is good news for family members or friends who wish to keep their loved ones with ALS at home for as long as possible. Many family members take on the role of caregiver, and with no risk of contagion that is easier to do.

9. ALS is terminal and there is no cure.

People diagnosed with ALS die from the disease, and so far there is no cure. The ALS Association uses the money donated to research the disease, as well as provide care for people and families who are currently coping with the disease.

What is it like to have ALS?

10. Muscle weakness.

Picking up objects and doing what most of us might consider to be simple tasks like brushing our teeth become very difficult. One woman whose husband has ALS describes picking up a fork as being like picking up a 10 lb. weight again and again.

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11. Fatigue.

One symptom of ALS is extreme fatigue, including excessive yawning.

12. Pain.

ALS makes it hard to move when uncomfortable, and the muscles that waste away are no longer stimulated. Even turning over in bed may not be possible.

13. Paralysis.

Eventually, the disease leads to paralysis. Imagine not being able to move any part of your body but your eyes, and you’ve got a glimpse into what paralysis must feel like.

Can ALS be prevented?

14. Not smoking.

Nonsmokers have a lesser chance of getting the disease, as mentioned above. If you’re a smoker, quitting reduces your odds.

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15. Eating brightly colored fruits and veggies.

There is some evidence that eating brightly colored fruits and veggies (especially those that are red, orange, and yellow) can help prevent the disease.

What can I do?

16. Ice bucket challenge.

The ice bucket challenge has raised tons of awareness and money for the ALS Association. If you’re inspired to participate, please do! Nominate your friends and family and challenge them to continue raising awareness.

17. Donate money.

If you don’t want to dump ice water on your head, consider just making a donation at alsa.org. Any donation, no matter how small, will make a difference.

18. Raise awareness.

Share this post and any other information with your friends and family on social media to help spread the word and educate people about ALS.

19. Hold a fundraiser.

If you want to raise more money than you could donate on your own, consider holding a fundraiser at your school, church, or community center.

Featured photo credit: University of Central Arkansas via flickr.com

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Last Updated on January 14, 2019

7 Ways To Make Exercise Fun For Everyone

7 Ways To Make Exercise Fun For Everyone

From Atkins to Paleo to eating gluten-free despite not being one of the rare few people afflicted with celiac disease, fad diets are everywhere. It drives me crazy because I believe these diets do more harm than good. Your body is made up of a variety of vitamins, nutrients, and minerals, and losing weight healthily isn’t possible when you fill your body with unnecessary synthetic plastics, sugars, and powders. There’s no easy button in life.

What you need to do is exercise, which isn’t very appealing to many people. Workouts take work, so there’s already a stigma involved in going to the gym. Starting a healthy workout regimen becomes easier when you make it fun. If you want to live long and prosper, get off the couch and try these methods to turn your workout into a playout.

1. Take the scenic route.

Walking is an easy way to transition to a healthy lifestyle, and it’s free. Not only do you burn calories (check out this calculator for how many calories you burn based on your weight), but you see the world in a different way. Hiking in nature is great if you have access to it, but don’t let living in an urban area deter you from walking.

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Whenever I’m creatively stuck I get my head straight by walking a couple of miles. It’s also how I discover new paths, meet new people, and stumble upon hole-in-the-wall spots I never would have found otherwise. You could drive past the same place every day and never appreciate the beauty, nor even notice it’s there.

2. Distract yourself.

No matter what exercise routine you choose, use the time to meditate. You may wonder how marathon runners are able to put so many miles on their bodies. It’s because the pain from running that you avoid is something they’ve learned to harness to enter a transcendental state. If you’re aware of the benefits of meditation and exercise but don’t have time to do both, you can combine them, killing two birds with one healthy stone.

3. Listen to music or podcasts.

There are few experiences in life more pleasurable than turning up the music and drowning out the world around you. With so many podcasts and music apps available on your smartphone, you can easily find entertainment options perfectly suited to your personal tastes. Never worry what people may think of you when working out;instead, crank up the volume and get lost in your own world. You’ll be in shape before you know it.

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4. Bring a friend.

Some people can’t go anywhere alone. While I highly recommend dining out and seeing a movie in a theater alone, having company while exercising is very helpful. It allows you to pace yourself with someone else, and gives you a coach to motivate and push harder than you may have on your own.

Many exercises are safer when done with a friend, and some sports can only be played with another person. Involving others in your goals can mean the difference between success and failure. Just remember to continue exercising if the other person flakes, or they’ll be in control of your health.

5. Accessorize.

There are accessories that can make exercise easier, and sometimes buying a new toy can add some much-needed fun to your routine. With apps like RunKeeper and Nike+, your smartphone is capable of tracking your vitals and progress. Wrist weights can add a new dimension to your workout, and, if you exercise at night, a headlamp can help you see what’s in front of you so you don’t trip.

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For urban runners and power-walkers, one of the biggest obstacles is other people. It’s difficult to get in your meditative zone and enjoy your music when you constantly have to dodge people. To resolve this vexing issue, Runbell, a startup in Tokyo, has developed the runner’s version of the bicycle bell. With this lightweight brass bell warning people you’re approaching from behind, you’re free to maintain your transcendental state while continuing your workout. Head to their Kickstarter campaign to pledge your support.

6. Compete.

A little healthy competition can motivate you to push yourself further in your workout regimen. There are apps like Zombies, Run! which turns your run into a video game, and MyFitnessPal which allows you to connect with others in the exercise community. Whether you’re directly competing with a friend, an online community, or against your previous self, setting goals is the key to reaching them. Running with no destination can feel like an impossible task, and it’s easy to get distracted.

7. Relax.

The best part about exercising is how much you enjoy the downtime. If you think laying on your couch all day is enjoyable, it has nothing on that hour you spend as a couch potato after a rigorous workout. Jay-Z said it best, “in order to experience joy, you need pain.” The harder you push yourself while exercising, the better you’ll feel when you’re relaxing.

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With that said, don’t relax too much, or it loses the effect. It’s okay to indulge every so often. Treat yourself to some junk food you’re craving, imbibe a drink here and there, and spend a day vegging out on your couch. Staying healthy doesn’t have to be torture. Just turn down when you can and dedicate some time to better the health of your body. You only get one.

Featured photo credit: tpsdave via pixabay.com

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