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Being an Avenger is no easy feat. However Australian actor Chris Hemsworth has always managed to stay on top of his physical health so that his body is worthy enough to wield Thor’s hammer. But what about his brain health? How does the Marvel actor take care of that? Well, in order to ensure the longevity of both his brain and body, the Men in Black actor’s latest project is Limitless, a new longevity-focused docuseries on Disney+. 

In one episode, Hemsworth underwent a comprehensive set of genetic tests, and the results revealed that he has an Alzheimer’s gene that significantly raises his risk of developing the condition.

Chris Hemsworth Talks Alzheimer’s Risk

In episode five of the Limitless docuseries, Hemsworth’s genetic testing revealed that his makeup includes two copies of the gene APOE4, one from his mother, and the other from his father. According to a study published in the Science Translational Medicine journal, one in four people carry a single copy of the gene, yet only 2 to 3% of the population have both. 

Speaking to Vanity Fair, Hemsworth shared that the diagnosis wasn’t a total surprise, as his grandfather has the condition,

Alzheimer’s

Orawan Pattarawimonchai/Shutterstock

“I haven’t seen him in a few years, but my other family members have and there’s some days where he’s quite joyful and gives you a big hug. But my mum was saying he’s just a really friendly guy.” he says, 

“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.”

The 39-year-old actor added that while the genetic test results aren’t a definitive diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, the results are enough to provide him with a wake-up call, 

“If I didn’t know this [Alzheimer’s] information, I wouldn’t have made the changes I made.” I just wasn’t aware of any of it, so now I feel thankful that I have in my arsenal the sort of tools to best prepare myself and prevent things happening in that way.”

Now, while the Limitless showrunners were open to excluding the genetic findings from the show, Hemsworth felt it necessary to keep it in, 

“I thought… 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.” 

What’s APOE4 got to do with Alzheimer’s?

The APOE gene is responsible for creating a protein that transports cholesterol and other types of fat in the bloodstream. APOE4 is one of the subtypes of the APOE gene, and it has been linked to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s. According to the Mayo Clinic, having one copy of the APOE4 gene increases your risk for Alzheimer’s 2-3 times, and having two copies increases your risk 10-15 times.

Researchers are still attempting to better understand how the APOE4 gene can increase one’s risk of developing the neurodegenerative condition, but they do have their theories. As the APOE protein is responsible for the transportation of cholesterol and fats to the bloodstream, researchers believe that the brain’s inability to process these fats may be a contributing factor in the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

In the previously mentioned study published in the Science Translational Medicine journal, the researchers set out to evaluate how the APOE4 gene may influence lipid metabolism in brain cells. The findings revealed that while the APOE4 gene does disrupt the lipid metabolism of in-vitro brain cells, more studies are needed to determine if this will remain true in humans. 

However, with all of that said, it should be noted that while the APOE4 gene does increase one’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s, it’s not a diagnosis – especially because other factors can also influence our risk.

The presence of APOE4 does not mean someone will definitely develop Alzheimer’s disease,says Dr. Susan Mitchell, the Head of Policy at Alzheimer’s Research UK

How can Chris Hemsworth and I reduce my risk for Alzheimer’s?

“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.”Chris Hemsworth

Yes, we can’t alter our genetics, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t reduce our risk of developing Alzheimer’s. If you have a history of Alzheimer’s in your family, or maybe you just want to mitigate your risk for the disease, then we recommend the following:

  • Follow a plant-based diet. The MIND diet (a combination of the DASH diet and the Mediterranean diet) was found to improve cognitive resilience in the elderly. 
  • Exercise daily
  • Manage your stress levels
  • Listen to music
  • Socialize
  • Completing your daily chores
  • Get quality sleep

Should I test for the APOE4 gene?

There’s no harm in testing for the APOE4 gene, especially if there is a history of neurodegenerative disorders in your family. After all, early diagnosis is incredibly important as it can allow for interventions that can help delay or even prevent the development of the condition. 

That said, if you don’t have the tools to test for the gene, then it’s okay. After all, we can’t change the genes we were born with, but we can change our lifestyle habits, so it would be better to channel all of your energy into that instead. 

MAIN IMAGE CREDIT: chrishemsworth/instagram

Watch the Limitless Trailer

References

Dhana, K., James, B. D., Agarwal, P., Aggarwal, N. T., Cherian, L. J., Leurgans, S. E., Barnes, L. L., Bennett, D. A., & Schneider, J. A. (2021). MIND Diet, Common Brain Pathologies, and Cognition in Community-Dwelling Older Adults. Journal of Alzheimer’s disease : JAD83(2), 683–692. https://doi.org/10.3233/JAD-210107

Sienski, G., Narayan, P., Bonner, J. M., Kory, N., Boland, S., Arczewska, A. A., Ralvenius, W. T., Akay, L., Lockshin, E., He, L., Milo, B., Graziosi, A., Baru, V., Lewis, C. A., Kellis, M., Sabatini, D. M., Tsai, L. H., & Lindquist, S. (2021). APOE4 disrupts intracellular lipid homeostasis in human iPSC-derived glia. Science translational medicine13(583), eaaz4564. https://doi.org/10.1126/scitranslmed.aaz4564

Pie Mulumba

Pie Mulumba

Pie Mulumba is a beauty and wellness writer who has a passion for poetry, equality, natural hair, and skin-care. With a journalism degree from Pearson's Institute of Higher Education, and identifiable by either her large afro or colorful locks, Pie aspires to continuously provide the latest information, be it beauty or wellness, on how one can adopt a healthy lifestyle on a day-to-day basis.

The content in this editorial is for general information only and is not intended to provide medical or other professional advice. For more information on your medical condition and treatment options, speak to your healthcare professional.

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