Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is definitely a chronic disease. What does that mean? It looks fairly obvious but little stop here won´t do any harm.
Chronic diseases are bigger and bigger issue in the current world. These diseases are also called non-communicable diseases. If we wanted some formalized definition on what chronic or non-communicable disease is, we can use any standard definition usually used.
A chronic disease/ non communicable disease (disease that persists for a long time) is one lasting 3 months or more, by the definition of the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics.
To find out how big the problem is we can refer World Health Organization (WHO).
Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), including heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes and chronic lung disease, are collectively responsible for almost 70% of all deaths worldwide. Almost three quarters of all NCD deaths, and 82% of the 16 million people who died prematurely, or before reaching 70 years of age, occur in low and middle-income countries. The rise of NCDs has been driven by primarily four major risk factors: tobacco use, physical inactivity, the harmful use of alcohol and unhealthy diets.The epidemic of NCDs poses devastating health consequences for individuals, families and communities, and threatens to overwhelm health systems. The socioeconomic costs associated with NCDs make the prevention and control of these diseases a major development imperative for the 21st century. WHO’s mission is to provide leadership and the evidence base for international action on surveillance, prevention and control of NCDs. Urgent government action is needed to meet global targets to reduce the burden of NCDs1.
If we follow above image link we can find out those 71% of deaths are 41 million in absolute numbers. Cardiovasciluar diseases still dominate with 17.9 million deaths but cancer with 9 million or diabetes with 1.6 million is also high and growing figures. I wanted to know how this looks in time and what the trends are. WHO website2 has some nice and quite rich features so I chose cancer stats in United States over time and looked at all cancer types and then specifically central nervous system affecting type, thyroid and liver. We can see the change in the trend in 1990s where the curve flattens a bit but still the data do not look good. Medicine made great progress regarding treatment of certain cancer types but some types are raising fast and numbers/trend could be assessed as alarming. Mainly liver cancer and you will later understand why I picked this specific type. Below image gallery has the graphs.
Besides cancer there is one chronic disease/issue which is known as a major risk for health but also for developing other more serious chronic diseases (e.g. diabetes). It is hypertension and the numbers here are already of different magnitude – according to WHO3 there is 1.13 billion of people globally diagnosed with hypertension.
If I wanted to dig into all the stats available, it would need whole book but above is sufficient and everyone can analyze data for other diseases, for our purpose it is sufficient and clear evidence of the existence and size of the problem. Besides these stats people in developed countries have their own experience – people know very well about this problem, people have lost someone in family or are fighting themselves with something.
The problem with CHDs or NCDs is that it is not like injury which usually occurs at one moment and it is clear what and how happened so the modern medicine can immediatelly use all the technology and already defined procedures to save life of the injured person. We all probably saw that and some have real experience with someone close or it is direct experience – someone got terrible injured, the system was alarmed, emergency (perhaps even helicopter) was sent and thanks to the amazing work of drivers/pilots, first contact medics and then anesthetists, surgeons, nurses and all the others you survive and often can return to the life, hopefully without permanent consequences. Such person has great feeling of gratitude to medical and healthcare system. And that is right. People here just do great job in overall. In this case knowing a symptom or consequence like open leg fracture or broken ribs is all needed – it is good to know the root cause (car accident etc.), but not necessary to fix the problem.
On the other hand CHD is rather mystery for current medical science and that is why people suffer with it for a long time and it is very hard to actually heal it (healing vs curing). In most cases science still doesn´t know how exactly such diseases get developed so they could proceed in the same relatively deterministic way as with injuries where human anatomy is known very well. This leads us to the first important deduction in otherwise obvious matters. If CHD is one which lasts 3 months or more it is rational to think or expect, it also had to be developing in the currently ill person for 3 months or more – usually many many more. If this is true then CHD reflects the way of life of given person including the environment. It is no wonder science struggles here because it does not know your life and what makes things even more complex, often even the ill person or relatives do not really know, because her/his/their view is twisted and biased and people are often not able to recognize significant factors. Another challenge here is the huge diversity among individuals – this calls for a new very personified medicine but do we have it? The current statistics based approach works against it.
Since current medicine does not know what really happened and how, it cannot action precisely and thus all it does in practice is it focuses on symptoms. Injury like broken leg or bleeding is also a symptom or result of some action or accident so medical science tries to apply the same approach. If you are bleeding they will stop it and it is usually all needed as the body then applies its own healing routines. Of course this is simplified and there are all the checks, infection prevention activities etc. Now let´s say you have been diagnosed with hypertension. What is the symptom? It is that hypertension, that is the symptom and since blood pressure can be measured we can detect that symptom easily. However what causes it? It is hard to answer – there are some known causes but what if you were examined and it is still not clear what is causing it in your case. You can have weight in norm, blood tests in norm and physical examination hasn´t revealed any disorder. You won´t get any final answer on this problem but you will get answer that higher blood pressure is risk factor and needs to be cured. Mostly with drugs but you will probably also get some fuzzy “improve diet/lifestyle” recommendation.
Medical science thus tries to lower the blood pressure with drugs chemically. How does it help? Is that anyhow solving the original reason? No it is not. As you will see later in different post I will describe my own case with hypertension in more detail and how I cured that. The problem is that in reality the drugs do not cure anything. It just makes the problem slightly lesser problem and by the way it is a money machine for the pharmacy industry. I think it is clear how terrible solution this in reality is for the global society but acceptable for some small involved society subset. Of course that people of all kinds then invest in stocks of these companies but in my opinion it is an example of story in which tactical solution became widely accepted solution and the overall push for better solutions is weak due to financial interests. Chronic diseases is great business but is that what we really want? Don´t we all want to be rather healthy, don´t we want to heal and enjoy life? Don´t we want to save those billions for something else and much better? This money is missing somewhere because we need to “cure” us first. The answer to these questions is YES, but then we do what we do … 🤷♂️
This all means current science is unable to heal the CHDs which is the ultimate wish/expectation of the ill person. If it was the opposite these diseases won´t be called chronic, right? 😁 Millions of people have this experience all over the globe including myself. However what science has is certain understanding of so called risk factors which contribute to CHD development. This is becoming very important in CHD prevention (food, habits, sport, stress) but sometimes you cannot do anything because science tells you the risk factor is your genes or DNA.
This is very widely known but is it really so important? Do scientists really understand human DNA? No, they don´t and it is more than rational to expect that in several upcoming decades science will most likely need to rethink many current theories and adjust statements. This does not mean genetic predispositions do not exist but the way it is communicated and stressed to public is in my opinion too aggressive. People and scienctists especially know that they have very limited knowledge. If they didn´t they would come with real solutions. DNA as a whole still remains mystery but people may have feeling they read about great success of Human Genome Project and thus we are almost done here. I had this impression as well but then I started to interest more and found out it all just concerns 2-3% of the whole DNA molecule. The rest is more or less mystery. Now would you think the remaining 97% has its sifnificance? Of course it has but scientists called that “junk DNA”. There is still much to explore and scientists need to be brave enough to gradually re-shape their theoretical frameworks. One pretty bad consequence of the limited knowledge is the threatening and fear spreading theories – for example someone is told he/she has certain gene sequence and thus he/she will probably have cancer and serious troubles. This is very wrong because it can affect such person heavilly. Sometimes these people may conclude they lost control of their lives and bad genes determine their destiny.
On this site I write about Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, perhaps the biggest mystery where science remains clueless and people are still dying without any understanding what is happening with them. These people are told they have bad genes or sometimes that their body started attacking them and that is the reason why they will die in few years. What a terrible approach. How does that help? Where is some ethics? Humans are programmed to live, not to prepare themselves for dying.
For us, today living people, it is not really satisfying if we can imagine and hope children of our children already won´t die in their 50s in pains on today chronic disease like incurable or lately observed cancer or strange and mysterious Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) or based on the name, its less brutal sister Multiple Sclerosis (MS). We certainly want to live without fear of these diseases as well. This requires us to get much better understanding of them. Besides this, people at the beginning of 20th century perhaps hoped for the same but hundred years later we have not made such progress yet, we don´t know what ALS exactly is. If someone receives ALS diagnosis today he/she will get the same ZERO treatment as Lou Gehrig in 1937. What a shame I would tend to say. No stem cell therapy works, it is just waste of money if you wanted to point it out. Also some drug which prolongs patient and family agony by few months is nothing but unethical fail. In our world medical science is the authority and we trust it and rely on it but what if it has no good answers? We need to look anywhere else and just be careful and that is what people actually do.
In the context of ALS the chronic disease character is telling me the healing process needs to be also „chronic“, in other words a long and perhaps painful reverse process of the original process causing the disease. This is the outcome of my analysis here. However when thinking about all these things I also had to come to another logical deduction. Since chronic disease is a long lasting problem it needs to gradually develop through multiple stages or phases. This is known for cancer – early tumor detection can be big win, late detection with metastasis in progress is often disaster. It is certainly complex to be able to spot some early stage of chronic disease – if it does not hurt, if it does not express visually, how can people see it coming? There is probably no good advice. We just need to be very careful and try to examine our health states with natural interest and scrutiny. Challenges are everywhere though. If you try to honestly introspect yourself, your moods, occasional but repeating issues and strange symptoms which are even hard to describe with words, you can hit the wall in the physician office. He or she won´t be able to detect what you feel and you may end with hypochondriac label. As a result people can be actually indirectly discouraged to do above. This really is super complex.
Going back to the important part, there need to be also early stages of ALS which are hidden to people and medicine. I believe this sneaky and insidious disease has its milestones and checkpoints. It may sound too weird and perhaps shocking but I believe many people have healed from something like ALS without even knowing. The point is they reversed the trend at some undetectable stage and that saved them. It is very similar to cancer as cancer cells or some mini cancer could appear in many people but their immune system improved in reasonable time and addressed the growing problem. Sometimes it got much further and even detectable tumor was sponateneously healed without any medical intervention. With ALS we need to identify the key factors and then we can perhaps reveal the reverse process and provide aid even to ALS patients who are already ill for longer time.
I wold not write all these long paragraphs if I did not have something strange to share. Please read on if you want to know more.
- 1.Noncommunicable diseases. WHO. Accessed December 2020. https://www.who.int/health-topics/noncommunicable-diseases#tab=tab_1
- 2.Cancer Data. WHO. Accessed December 2020. https://www-dep.iarc.fr/WHOdb/WHOdb.htm
- 3.Hypertension. WHO. Accessed December 2020. https://www.who.int/health-topics/hypertension/#tab=tab_1
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