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A newly discovered risk factor for later development of ALS has been found: low muscle strength.

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is rare and fatal usually two to five years after diagnosis.

New Risk Factor for ALS: Low Muscle Strength

A study at Sahlgrenska Academy, Sweden (Journal of Neurology, Feb. 2018) found that among teens (18 and 19), low muscle strength was a risk factor for this killer disease. So were low blood counts.

Though these results are impossible to ignore, this IS a first-time study in this realm.

However, Dr. Maria Aberg, a neurobiology professor, physician and lead study author, explains in the paper, “One should never overstate conclusions from a first-time study — the results need to be repeated.”

Aberg et al took a look at Swedish military enlistment data for over 1.8 million men between 1968 and 2005, plus data from the Swedish mortality register and health care register. The follow-up was up to 46 years.

Out of the 1.8 million, 526 developed ALS.

New ALS Risk Factor

At the time the young men were enlisted in the military, the muscle strength of their legs, arms and hands were measured.

“Those with the lowest muscle strength had a significant risk of getting ALS 30 years later,” says Dr. Aberg in the paper.

This is alarming news to anyone who may be recalling how “weak” they were in young adulthood.

The results of this study do NOT prove a direct causation between weak muscles early in adult life and the development of ALS years later.

But somehow, someway, this connection is there. Certainly, many people are “weaklings” in young adulthood and live to 90 without ever getting this motor neuron disease.

“But we have no answers as to why a particular group has lower muscle strength more than 30 years before becoming sick,” says Dr. Aberg in the report.

If you never worked out as a younger person and thus had weak muscles – not even able to do a pushup or even half a pull-up – don’t panic. Remember, there are millions of people who live to old age without ever developing ALS, who were weaklings in young adulthood.