While filming a documentary exploring the effects of time and age, beloved Australian actor Chris Hemsworth was informed by his doctor that he was eight to ten times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease. Despite learning he has two copies of the ApoE4 gene – the strongest risk factor gene for Alzheimer’s disease – the 39-year-old has maintained a stoic optimism. Vanity Fair“I won’t focus so much on the future – and what’s next?”
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If you thought some fans were outraged about Liam Hemsworth replacing Henry Cavill Witcher Season 4 was big, just wait until we see the outpouring of support for his brother. While filming the fifth episode of his 2022 National Geographic documentary UnrestrictedChris Hemsworth said he has a higher risk of developing younger-onset dementia, also known as familial Alzheimer’s disease, which affects people in their 40s and 50s. As a result, Hemsworth announced plans to take an indefinite hiatus from the acting world to spend more time with his family.
But don’t fret just yet. Just listen to what he told the tabloids: “My point was that I didn’t want to manipulate it and over-dramatize it.” Trying to avoid “any kind of empathy grab or anything for fun,” Hemsworth said.
“It’s not like I got fired.
A fate that has befallen a number of young actors over the years, including Michael J. Fox, who was forced to retire after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Instead, Hemsworth said it was the trigger he needed “to take some time.”
“Doing an episode about death and facing my own mortality made me go, ‘Oh God, I’m not ready to go yet,'” he said. “I want to sit and be in this space with a greater sense of stillness and gratitude. It really triggered something in me to want to take a break.”
While he didn’t receive a definitive diagnosis, Hemsworth said he wasn’t completely shocked by the revelation due to his grandfather’s battle with the same condition, and said the show became “more moving” for him as it progressed.
“The show that started out as an exploration of longevity, and of course it was supposed to be fun, has become even more relevant and important to me, even more poignant than I ever thought it would be,” explained Hemsworth. “If you look at Alzheimer’s prevention, the benefit of taking preventative steps is that it affects the rest of your life… It’s all about sleep management, stress management, nutrition, exercise, fitness. They are all the same tools that need to be used in a consistent way.”
While this news may seem shocking considering the number of articles about Hemsworth’s exercise we publish each year, ApoE4, or the apolipoprotein E gene, has very little to do with fitness. According to information released by ABC from the US National Institute on Aging (NIA), 25 percent of people carry one copy of ApoE4, and only 2 to 3 percent have two copies.
“It’s not a predeterministic gene, but it’s a strong indication,” he said. “Ten years ago, I think it was considered more defining.” Which hopefully means there’s a chance Hemsworth could live out his life without any dementia-like symptoms.
But when asked if acting still excites him, Hemsworth replied: “I’m in a state, not passive, but a little more surrendering to things as they are. I don’t mean it apathetically…But now I’m thinking about it all quietly.’
However, however long Hemsworth chooses to stay away from Hollywood is clearly a personal choice, and we wish him well. If you want to know more about Alzheimer’s disease, we have collected some of the most frequently asked questions below.
Frequently asked questions about Alzheimer’s disease
- What is Alzheimer’s disease? – Alzheimer’s is a physical brain condition that shrinks the brain, kills cells, which slowly destroys memories and thinking. It is the most common form of irreversible dementia.
- How does Alzheimer’s disease affect the brain? – Alzheimer’s disease disrupts the brain’s neurons, affecting how they function and communicate with each other, reducing vital brain chemicals and preventing the transmission of messages in the brain.
- Are there different types of Alzheimer’s disease? – Yes, Alzheimer’s disease is categorized as either sporadic or familial. Sporadic Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form and usually occurs after age 65. Familial Alzheimer’s disease, also known as hereditary Alzheimer’s disease or younger-onset dementia, is caused by a very rare genetic disorder and leads to dementia, usually in people between the ages of 40 and 50.
- How many Australians have Alzheimer’s disease? – Up to 1 in 10 Australians over the age of 65 and about 3 in 10 Australians over the age of 85 have Alzheimer’s disease.
- What are the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease? – Early symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease are memory loss and difficulty finding the right words for everyday things. However, since these symptoms are quite common, it is recommended to see a doctor to determine the exact cause of the memory problems. Symptoms will also vary as the condition progresses and different areas of the brain are affected.
- How is Alzheimer’s disease diagnosed? – There is no single test for diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease. Instead, doctors must perform a series of tests and clinical consultations to rule out other causes before a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease can be made. These tests include a detailed medical history, physical examination, blood and urine tests, psychiatric evaluations, neuropsychological tests (to assess memory and thinking abilities), and brain scans.
For more information visit the Dementia Australia website.
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