Image of Theo Wargo via Getty/Futurism
Chris Hemsworth of Marvel fame – and one of the biggest movie stars on the planet – will be taking an unexpected break from acting after learning he carries two copies of a gene that increases his chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
The sobering revelation came to the ‘Thor’ star while filming his latest TV show, ‘Limitless,’ in which he battles against human aging and mortality. Hemsworth ended up facing his “biggest fear” after genetic testing showed he carried two copies of the APOE4 gene from his mother and father. Studies have linked the gene to a greatly increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s, and only 2 to 3 percent of people carry two copies as Hemsworth does, according to a National Institutes of Health (NIH) study.
Hemsworth described how he was given the news in a heartfelt interview with Vanity Fair.
“Peter Attia, who is the longevity doctor in that episode and oversees much of the show, called [the show creator] and said, “I don’t want to tell him on camera.” We need to have an off-side conversation and see if he even wants this to be on the show,'” Hemsworth explained.
During the episode, Attia finally tells Hemsworth that she is eight to ten times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s than those who do not possess the APOE4 gene.
“It was pretty shocking because he called me and told me,” the 39-year-old actor said.
Alzheimer’s is a brain disorder that affects more than 6 million Americans, most over the age of 65, and is the leading cause of dementia in older adults, according to the NIH. The disease slowly deteriorates cognitive functions including memory, thinking, speaking and the ability to perform simple tasks, to the point where a patient becomes completely dependent on help from others.
Without a known cure, loved ones are helpless as they watch their friend or family member lose their personality.
And Hemsworth would know firsthand: His grandfather has Alzheimer’s.
“I’m not sure if he actually remembers much anymore and he slides in and out of Dutch, which is his original language, so he’ll speak Dutch and English and then a mash-up and then maybe even some other new words,” said Hemsworth Vanity Fair.
When asked, the actor agreed that the prediction was ominous.
“The reality of that sinks in. Your own mortality,” Hemsworth told the magazine.
Hemsworth’s situation raises an interesting dilemma: Would you want to know your chances of developing a serious and deadly disease so far in advance, especially when there’s no cure?
For many, the answer is an obvious yes. Early warning about diseases such as cancer greatly improves a person’s chances of being cured and surviving.
But in the case of Alzheimer’s, that’s it‘There is no known cure and only limited preventative measures. An early warning could simply be a source of perpetual terror with no recourse.
Furthermore, in many cases, genetic testing can be misleading. After all, in the case of Alzheimer’s, having APOE4 only means an increased risk, not a definitive diagnosis. The authoritative nature of the science involved could lead someone to spend a lifetime worrying about an outcome that may never be successful. Would it be worth it then?
It’s a question Hemsworth himself mulled over after he was offered to air a version of the episode without the genetic test results. Eventually, he decided to keep them inside.
“No, look, if this is an incentive for people to take better care of themselves and also understand that there are steps you can take, then great,” she said in the interview.
Either way, Hemsworth is thankful he passed the test and is approaching the news with optimism.
“Whether or not this information helps you live longer, it’s about living better in the moment,” Hemsworth added. “Whatever you do right now to benefit your future self is having a huge benefit in your current self.”
For Hemsworth, that means taking a break from acting and spending more time with his wife and kids, but he makes it clear that “it’s not like they’ve given me the resignation,” so we can hope he recovers.
Meanwhile, fans can look forward to her mysterious character in George Miller’s upcoming ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ prequel ‘Furiosa’ which may be her most interesting role yet.
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