Angela Lansbury Was A Powerful Voice For People With ALS

Angela Lansbury, the beloved actress who was known for her roles in "Murder, She Wrote" and "Beauty and the Beast," died on Tuesday (via People). Her family made a statement announcing that she "died peacefully in her sleep at home in Los Angeles" just a few days before her 97th birthday. Lansbury will be remembered for her acting and musical talent, but she will also be remembered for her role within the ALS community.

In 2008, Lansbury became a spokesperson for the ALS Association (via WebMD). In 1987, her sister, Isolde, died from the disease. Lansbury shared later how difficult it was at the time to try to piece together her sister's symptoms and ultimately be told that there was no cure for the disease. Over 20 years later, when she became a spokesperson, little was still known about the disease. Lansbury continued to work with the ALS Association for many years. "I have a family and grandchildren," she said. "I have a full life still, but nevertheless I can take the time to do something in which I can give back, and that pleases me tremendously."

What to know about ALS

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord (via Mayo Clinic). Motor neurons reach from the brain to the spinal cord and from the spinal cord to the muscles throughout the body. The progressive degeneration of these motor neurons in ALS eventually leads to their death. When the motor neurons die, the ability of the brain to initiate and control muscle movement is lost. With voluntary muscle action progressively affected, people with ALS may lose the ability to speak, eat, move, and breathe.

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, there is no cure for ALS and no effective medical treatment to halt or reverse the progression of the disease. However, a new drug was just approved by the FDA that may increase the life expectancy of people with ALS (via NBC News). ALS can strike anyone, anywhere. It does not discriminate by age, race, or gender, and every individual experiences the disease differently. While some people may only experience mild symptoms, others may rapidly lose muscle function.