Marvel star Chris Hemsworth has discussed how he discovered he has a gene that made him up to ten times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease.
When Chris Hemsworth signed up for the Disney+ series Limitless, he wanted to explore how science and medicine could improve our lives.
During genetic testing for the show the Thor star learned he had two copies of the gene that made him up to ten times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease.
Producers offered the star the option to keep the results private but instead, this week, Hemsworth courageously decided to highlight them to create public awareness.
Describing the diagnosis as “my biggest fear” the actor told how he was one of just three per cent of the population who had two copies of the gene APOE4, which studies have linked to an eight-to-tenfold increase in developing the disease.
While getting Alzheimer’s in the future is by no means a given, he told Vanity Fair, it is a cause for concern — and he’s decided to take time off acting to focus on his health and family.
“My concern was I just didn’t want to manipulate it and overdramatise it, and make it into some sort of hokey grab at empathy, or whatever, for entertainment,” Hemsworth said. “It’s not like I’ve been handed my resignation.”
Doctors — who until then gave the actor all his results on camera — contacted him privately with the news. But the star told them he wanted it to be included in the episode.
“The show, which initially was an exploration of longevity and, of course, should be fun, became even more relevant and important for me, even more poignant than I ever thought it would be.
"It was a really good catalyst to dive into everything I needed to be doing in either the prevention front or the management front or however you want to classify it.
Having felt “like I’d been in a sprint for ten years” the actor plans to spend a lot more time off movie sets and with family. “It really triggered something in me to want to take some time off,” he said.
By going public with his own health results, Hemsworth has shone a light on gene testing that could well benefit many others.
He’s the latest celeb to go public for the greater good. Just two years ago, actor James Michael Tyler — best known for playing Gunther in Friends — revealed he had been diagnosed with late-stage prostate cancer.
The actor — who has since tragically passed away — did a TV interview talking about how early detection could save many lives. “There are other options available to men if they catch it before me,” he said.
Other stars who have shared health stories include Danish footballer Christian Eriksen, who miraculously returned to the World Cup this week, less than two years after almost dying during a football match. Eriksen had to have a device fitted to his heart after suffering cardiac arrest on the pitch.
He shared updates about his progress on social media and his return to football’s world stage promotes further awareness.
Speaking of the team’s delight, manager Kasper Hjulmand added: “He just keeps training and playing football. In training yesterday, we decided not to do much. But we had to drag him off the pitch. The love of the game is the most important thing for him.”
At the very height of her fame, Angelina Jolie put breast cancer into the global conversation when she publicly revealed she had a double mastectomy as a preventative measure after losing both her mother and grandmother to the disease.
The actress later wrote for the New York Timesabout how she came to that decision, telling how her mother was just 49 when diagnosed and died a year later.
The star tested positive for BRCA1, the gene which indicated a greatly increased risk of breast cancer, and made her decisions based on that evidence. “I was able to have a genetic test that revealed I carried a gene, the so-called BRCA1, that predisposes me to cancer,” she later said in an interview. “The test came too late for the other women in my family.”
Michael J Foxwas only 29 when he received the life-changing diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease and has been an inspiration in the years since, creating public awareness and raising over $1.5 billion through his charitable foundation.
Fox was given a standing ovation when he received a humanitarian award at the Governors Ball in LA last weekend, but went on to reveal how he struggled with his diagnosis in the early days.
“I was told I only had 10 years left to work. That was s****y,” he told the attendees. “That’s what happened. The hardest part of my diagnosis was grappling with the certainty of the diagnosis and the uncertainty of the situation.”
Characteristically downplaying all of the work he has done for research into the disease, he added: “There was nothing heroic about what I did. I am so grateful to all these people and thousands more who will make a world without Parkinson’s a reality.
“It’s humbling in the deepest way to stand here today and accept your kindness and approbation when truly the effort is being driven by others so deserving of this attention.”
Hugh Jackman has been receiving treatment for skin cancer in recent years but rather than keeping the news private, has become a leading driver of information on the disease in the US.
After having a second basal cell carcinoma removed last year, he shared a video on Instagram, later adding: “If by posting about this I remind one person to go see their dermatologist, I’m happy.”
Lady Gaga was forced to cancel her tour in 2017 when she was diagnosed with the painful condition fibromyalgia. She became so frustrated with a lack of public understanding about the condition, linked to the nervous system, that she made a documentary for Netflix.
“People need to be more compassionate,” she said. “Chronic pain is no joke. And it’s every day waking up not knowing how you’re going to feel.”