Chris Hemsworth learns he’s genetically predisposed to Alzheimer’s: ‘It affects the rest of your life’
Chris Hemsworth has made a significant discovery.
While filming his National Geographic docuseries, Limitless, the actor, 39, learned he had a greater-than-average chance of developing Alzheimer's after finding out he has two copies of the gene APOE4, which is linked to an increased risk of the neurodegenerative disease.
"They took all my bloodwork and did a bunch of tests and the plan was to on-camera tell me all the results and then talk about how you can improve this and that," Hemsworth told Vanity Fair of the fourth episode, entitled "Memory," in which a doctor tested him and told him the news on camera.
Upon hearing the news, the Thor star said he had a hard time navigating what to do with the information.
“Most of us, we like to avoid speaking about death,” he explained. “Then to all of a sudden be told some big indicators are actually pointing to this as the route which is going to happen, the reality of it sinks in. Your own mortality.”
According to a 2022 Stanford-led study, "about 25% of people with European ancestry have one copy of APOE4, which more than doubles their chances of developing late-onset Alzheimer's. Another 2% to 3% of people have two copies of the variant, which renders them 8 to 10 times more likely to get the disease."
Hemsworth says his grandfather is currently living with the disease. While he hasn't seen him in a few years, he's relied on family members to provide updates on his health.
"There's some days where he's quite joyful and gives you a big hug, but my mom was saying … he's just a really friendly guy," he said of his grandfather. "I'm not sure he actually remembers much anymore and he slips in and out of Dutch, which is his original language, so he'll be talking Dutch and English and then a mash-up and then maybe some other new words as well."
At one point, Hemsworth says the doctor who gave him the test was concerned about delivering his results on camera. The actor was even "offered a version of the episode where we didn't talk about it," but after considering how it may help others, he decided to approve the scene.
"My concern [with the episode] was I just didn't want to manipulate it and overdramatize it, and make it into some sort of hokey grab at empathy or whatever for entertainment," Hemsworth said.
"If this is a motivator for people to take better care of themselves and also understand that there are steps you can take, then fantastic," he added. "If you look at Alzheimer's prevention, the benefit of preventative steps is that it affects the rest of your life. When you have preposition to cardiovascular heart disease, cancer, anything — it's all about sleep management, stress management, nutrition, movement, fitness. It's all kind of the same tools that need to be applied in a consistent way."
Still, while the news came as a shock, Hemsworth says it's only motivated him to live life to the fullest.
"It's not like I've been handed my resignation and this is what it is — and it's up in a few months," he explained. "It's not quite that situation, thankfully. One day I'm sure I'll bring it up [with my kids]. They probably want to test themselves and [find out,] 'Are you in the category that's going to be sensitive to this or not?'"
"Live with as big a sense of gratitude and love for life as you can," he advises. "You don't know when your time's up, you don't know what tomorrow holds, so live it to its fullest. Whether or not any of this information helps you live longer, it's about living better right now. Whatever you do right now to benefit your future self is having a huge benefit in your current self."
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