Chris Hemsworth is taking a break from acting following Alzheimer’s genetic testing


Chris Hemsworth has a Disney+ documentary series called Limitless, in which he “test[s] his body and explore ways to live longer and healthier.” As part of the series, he underwent some genetic tests, and he was originally supposed to receive the results live on camera. However, when production received the results revealing that Chris has a heightened risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, series creator Darren Aronofsky told him privately instead. Chris said the news made him want to take time off from acting, and he’ll do so after completing his promotional duties for Limitless.

Actor Chris Hemsworth says he is taking a break from acting after learning he has a heightened risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

The Thor star made the discovery after undergoing tests as part of his Disney+ documentary series Limitless.

He told Vanity Fair the tests confirmed his “biggest fear”, adding he will now be trying to take “preventative steps”.

Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia and can cause memory problems, confusion and communication issues.

Hemsworth learned that he has two copies of the gene ApoE4, one from his mother and one from his father, making him between eight and 10 times more likely to develop the disease than those without both copies of the gene.

About 2 to 3 per cent of the population carries two copies of the gene.

“It’s not like I’ve been handed my resignation,” Hemsworth said, but added the news “really triggered something in me to want to take some time off”.

“If you look at Alzheimer’s prevention, the benefit of preventative steps is that it affects the rest of your life,” he said.

“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.”

He explained that he had not been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, but had been warned of the heightened risk. “It’s not a pre-deterministic gene, but it is a strong indication,” he said. “Ten years ago, I think it was more thought of as determinant.”

Hemsworth said the original plan for the series would have seen him receive all his genetic test results live to camera – but series creator Darren Aronofsky told him privately once they got the results.

The Marvel star was subsequently given the option of removing any references to Alzheimer’s from the show, but decided to include his genetic risk of Alzheimer’s to improve awareness and understanding.

“My concern was I just didn’t want to manipulate it and over-dramatise it, and make it into some sort of hokey grab at empathy or whatever for entertainment,” he said.

Hemsworth also confirmed to the magazine his grandfather has also been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

[From BBC.com]

Chris is going to head home to Australia to be with his wife, Elsa Pataky, and their three kids. He hasn’t said anything about the length of his break, but it seems like he’ll take as long as possible before he has to do promo or film for something else he has scheduled (he just finished filming on the Mad Max sequel). Maybe Chris wasn’t completely shocked since his grandfather has Alzheimer’s and it is genetic, but that still must be incredibly jarring news to have confirmed. And to find out through something work-related, no less. Production, of course, did the right thing by telling him privately. And they gave Chris the option to omit it from the show, but he chose to include it anyway to increase awareness. It certainly would have been his right to keep that medical information private, especially since it was new to him and he likely didn’t have much time to process it, but it is admirable that he’s sharing in the hopes of educating others, especially about the preventative steps. I wasn’t aware of the preventative steps until reading this article. It’s good that Chris is taking time off to reflect and relax and spend time with family. I imagine he’s regrouping a bit as well, as this might be something that affects the choice and pacing of his projects going forward.

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34 Responses to “Chris Hemsworth is taking a break from acting following Alzheimer’s genetic testing”

  1. Digital Unicorn says:

    Much respect to him for releasing this – its a devastating illness. I lost my mother to vascular dementia caused by mini strokes (which run in my family).

    Much love to him and his family.

    • SusieQ says:

      @Digital Unicorn, I am so sorry about your mother. Vascular dementia and mini-strokes run in my family too. I lost my brilliant, kind, musical father to it in 2017, and he nursed three relatives through it in his life. Now one of my dad’s first cousins has it. It’s such a nightmare of a disease.

    • AmelieOriginal says:

      Same my maternal grandmother lived with vascular dementia for years. I feel like I never really got to know my grandmother as its gradual progression took place during my childhood years. By the time I was curious to ask her about her childhood, her own life, I no longer could. She passed when I was 23 years old, after 5 years of living in a nursing home and an amputated leg below the knee (my mom had to make that medical decision for her). My great-grandmother also had dementia and I’m terrified the same will happen to my mom.

      One of my maternal uncles passed in 2018 and while I’ll never know if he would have gotten dementia, I sometimes wonder if he had early signs just due to his weird behavior on social media. My other maternal uncle has Parkinson’s and dementia is one of the symptoms so hard to know if it’s genetic for him. So far my aunt and mom still have their marbles… I can only pray they don’t get it and that my grandfather’s genes dominate that portion of their health.

      • cee says:

        My paternal grandmother had degenerative dementia and it was so sad. One day she knew who I was and the next the only remembered me as a 5 year old girl. The blow came when she did not know who my sister was as her illness took her to a time when my sister hadn’t been born yet.

      • Giddy says:

        @Cee I can relate. My grandmother thought I was one of her daughters and asked me if my father had started to date any nice girls. I was a teenager at the time and handled it poorly; I told her that my father was married and that I was his daughter. She became upset and thought he had gotten married without telling her. I never made that mistake again.

  2. Mrs Robinson says:

    Of all of the common preventative measures: supplements, brain games, Mediterranean diet, and exercise, it’s exercise that makes the measurable difference in lowering levels of plaque/onset of dementia. So hopefully it’ll help that he’s so fit.

  3. Caroline says:

    I’ve watched most of the episodes, and it’s actually better than I thought it would be. I was impressed with him after watching, since all I can see him as is Thor.

  4. JP says:

    My grandmother struggled with short term, then long term memory loss and cognition at the end of her life. She was still a card shark, though. The last time I visited her before she passed, we spent hours playing cards. The fear of experiencing the same issues when I get older is always there, though I try not to think of it. I’m glad he’s raising awareness, and being public about taking a break for himself to process everything. Good for him.

    • Noodle says:

      It’s funny you say she was a card shark. My mom has advanced Alzheimer’s and lives in a memory care home for her own safety (she was starting fires at home and didn’t know what the beeping fire alarm was so she’d just turn up the TV). She doesn’t remember any of us anymore, besides my dad, who visits every day. He’s only allowed an hour a day, and their main activity is UNO (the card game). Even though UNO is largely a game of chance rather than skill, she still beats him about 80% of the time. It’s so odd what she does remember, and what she doesn’t. It’s a heinous disease.

  5. Liz Version 700k says:

    My dad died in 2017 and it was pure hell to watch him loose himself. He is smart to take time to process this information and plan his response to it. I definitely became more health conscious and a bit more paranoid to be honest.

    • Noodle says:

      My mom was diagnosed about 5-6 years ago, and it’s torture to slowly watch the decline. I’m in mourning now, even though she hasn’t passed, because the person I knew isn’t there anymore. She may live another 10 years; we don’t know. So cruel.

  6. Lightpurple says:

    Sending him all the best wishes in warding off this horrible disease that has claimed several in my family

  7. Emmi says:

    I don’t know how I feel about shows like that. I’m extremely grateful to be healthy. I had some very painful and unpleasant gallbladder and thyroid issues that were finally treated this year and while neither was dangerous, they affected my life significantly. I’m all for preventative care. People should have access to it free of charge or at the very least a very affordable price. Bloodwork, some general tests, maybe an ultrasound (it’s insane to me that I came to my doctor with terrible painful episodes and no ultrasound was done immediately) and possibly a colonoscopy. That seems reasonable.

    However, I don’t know that I would want to know about all my genetic risks. My grandmother had Alzheimer’s. It’s a vicious disease and I don’t think I could live with that fear. I wonder how many people watch shows like that and either get scared or now want a whole host of tests.

    All the best to Chris though.

  8. detritus says:

    Dementia and all related diseases have to be one of the most horrifying thing a person can deal with.

    There have been a number of advances in plaque removal, I hope we see a ‘cure’ in our life time.

    When a celebrity comes out with a disease like this there is often increased interest and funding injected into research. Think Reeves and stem cell therapy.

  9. Elsa says:

    I was tested and I have one of the genes which has been very scary. I can’t imagine how devastating having two genes would be. As it is, I am always looking for signs. Poor man.

  10. HeyKay says:

    I’m glad he made it public. Good for him to help get info out.
    I’d take a break too. He has young kids and is financially secure. Be with your family and friends, you never get time back.

  11. Nicegirl says:

    💗

  12. Colleen says:

    My husband had DNA testing done that revealed they have the same heightened risk. He’s had family on both sides die of Alzheimer’s so his results did confirm his worst fears and it has really messed with him. If anyone could share some tips on preventative measures, I’d really appreciate it. The dread is something that factors into our lives constantly.

  13. Michelle says:

    My mother-in-law has early-onset Alzheimers, and is in the end stage of it now. Alzheimer’s is a hellish disease. My thoughts go out to anyone experiencing it themselves or with a loved one.

  14. Tina Loman says:

    It’s scary to know these sort of things, but the sooner you know that you are predisposed to something the sooner you look for symptoms. You can start preventative measures early. He’s fit and he probably eats healthy. You can start treatment earlier. There is some treatment that can delay the progression some. He’s taking time off and holding hands with his wife. They still look at little off compared to what they used to look like, but more together if that makes sense. nMaybe this is good for them or I’ve just been seeing things.He’s spending time with his children while they’re young. Spending more time with his family is great. Maybe he can see his grandfather sometimes. Sorry, but that was weird. It’s odd how many people don’t see their grandparents that their seemingly close parents see, but that’s probably because I grew up close in proximity to mine. But they’re rich and grown. They can go where they want as adults. I always think of learning another language and learning to play an instrument when it comes to brain health. That’s supposed to be good for you later in life.

  15. NG_76 says:

    That is so sad, any dementia related diseases are so scary! One of my best friend’s husband was diagnosed with early onset alzheimers recently. He’s only 51! She is of course completely devastated. It’s awful.

  16. hangonamin says:

    i’m very annoyed they chose to do genetic testing this way. genetic testing should never be done on a whim like that without being able to talk to a geneticist and no one should have the results before the patient. if they had discovered anything else life threatening god forbid, it would be awful to not be able to sit down with a geneticist to talk about risks. genes do not equal disease, there is still a lot we don’t know about what it means to have certain genes and not having someone to talk you through the process and what it means while getting the news is unacceptable. the fact the director knew his results before he did is not ok.
    i hope he gets to spend a lot of time with family and talk to the right healthcare professionals about the next steps.

  17. Anj says:

    My spouse has a atypical early-onset Alzheimer’s. He has switched to the M.I.N.D diet (a diet backed up by research and recommended by neuro’s) and is doing intense cardio at least 4 times a week as his neurologist suggested. Although the MIND diet recommends a glass of red wine each night, his neuro said no alcohol, and recent studies seem to indicate no alcohol is key also. It is heartbreaking as i watch him struggle to maintain mental capacity. This disease, and other neurodegenerative illnesses, are excruciating to watch progress. He has lost the ability to note the progression on a daily basis, so I am grateful for that part of the illness. And, like most other things in this country, the lack of support for those impacted is horrific. I read stories of caregivers, every day, being wiped out financially by the time their loved one finally passes.

    • Who ARE These People? says:

      I’m sorry he and you are going through this, and hope that you are able to get the support you need. Caregiving results not only in financial loss but often loss of health as well. And there’s so little done to help… I’m in Canada, the situation is not much better here.

  18. Ocho says:

    I hope this might help someone.

    We darkly referred to the “curse” on the women in my family, many having life-changing thyroid problems, getting cancer, Parkinson’s and Lou Gehrig’s and dying in their 20s, 30s, 40s, leaving children behind. In my family, that is a more likely outcome for a woman than a long life. I admit I didn’t want to know if I was inclined towards Parkinson’s.

    I just found out a couple days ago that I have a genetic marker for Coeliac. In my case, the doctor said that everyone in my family has a 25% chance of having it and the women have a 90% greater chance of being harmed. It is very easy to “treat” — just don’t eat gluten. It is also completely connected to the “curse”. Untreated coeliac disease damages your thyroid, leads to other less manageable autoimmune conditions, then leads to bone cancer or lymphoma. Coeliac disease is also related to Parkinson’s and Lou Gehrig’s.

    So, yes, you may find out you are more inclined towards something scary (like Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s) but you may also find out you are inclined towards something manageable and that by managing that disease, you are limiting the likelihood of getting something much worse, while also increasing the quality of your life.

  19. AppleCart says:

    He has money for the next 5 generations of Hemsworths I assume. And does he want to spend the best part of his life on a set. Or with his family and seeing his kids grow and be a part of their lives as long as possible. Not that a test is a death sentence. But prepares him for the future if it happens.

    My family doesn’t have the best genes. But thankfully as far as I know no one has died from Alzeheimers. I assume the big C will get me one day. So I try to eat well, work out, and use my sunscreen daily.

  20. MoBiMo says:

    Thanks for posting this. Because of the way we introduce genetic concepts in schools, folks are frequently left with the understanding the genotype always determines phenotype (that is that the alleles you carry will always determine the characteristics that you express). The truth is that the connection between genotype and phenotype is typically pretty complicated. We tend to teach the uncomplicated examples to students because it is an easier way to get basic concepts across.This is one of the reasons I worry about “recreational” genetic testing.

  21. Who ARE These People? says:

    I wrote out a whole long note and it didn’t show up, but basically, as others have noted:

    1. He inherited not a high-risk gene itself, but 2 copies of a “flavour” of the ApoE gene, which we all carry. ApoE comes in 4 different “flavours,” called alleles. The ApoE4 allele is associated with higher risk of Alzheimer’s in old age. (One of the other alleles may be protective, but I’d have to look it up.) Given that the odds for each of us inheriting the ApoE4 allele is 1 out of 4, or less often 2 out of 4, we’re definitely seeing the outcomes because our life span is longer.

    2. Raised risk doesn’t mean he’s guaranteed to develop Alzheimer’s; it’s an odds game and he’s great to be a public role model. His cardiovascular exercise, an anti-inflammatory diet (high in Omega 3s for example, fatty fish; also lots of produce), and also social and mental challenge can go a long way toward reducing his risk. But cardiovascular health tends to stand out above all the rest: brains need oxygen. Even if he pushes the onset of progression out by a few years, it can make a big difference in his life and for his family.

    3. Unclear in this general report whether they referred to absolute or relative risk (the “8 to 10 times more likely) – https://patient.info/news-and-features/calculating-absolute-risk-and-relative-risk#. Sometimes things can sound even scarier than they already are.

    4. Alzheimer’s diagnosed in its early stages is different from the very rare true genetic disorder, early-onset Alzheimer’s, which tends to hit in middle age and go fast (the situation in the novel, “Still Alive,” which scared the crap out of a lot of folks). Because the common late-onset Alzheimer’s is by definition progressive, it’s more about staging and intervening to slow things down as soon as possible.

    5. If COVID is pulling onset of dementia earlier, and also raise the risk of stroke and TIAs through blood clots traveling to the brain we will have an even bigger problem. It’s infuriating how we’re letting this happen, but it seems the horse has left the barn.

    • AppleCart says:

      The filter monster likes to eat comments.

    • Mary says:

      @Who, and there is the very scary recent study that found abnormal levels of plaque in the brains of long-haul COVID-19 patients. Yet another reason to stay vaccinated, boosted and wearing a mask!

  22. lucy2 says:

    I think he’s smart to take some time off, all those long hours on a film set can’t be good for sleep patterns and such. Good of him to talk about it publicly and raise awareness.

  23. Pajalakenora says:

    My parents each had TIA strokes in their late eighties, with my Mom losing her short-term memory and my Dad his long-term. Part of the tragedy is people recognizing how confused they themselves are. My brilliant Dad would ask me questions like ‘How many children do I have?’ So frightening and sad.

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