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Explainer: Chris Hemsworth to take time off after disclosing Alzheimer’s risk. What is this disease?

by Leila Salaverria

Recently updated on February 7, 2023 05:35 pm

CHRIS Hemsworth, who plays our favorite God of Thunder, will be taking a break from acting after disclosing that he has an increased risk for Alzheimer’s Disease.

Hemsworth, according to Vanity Fair, took genetic tests for a docuseries with National Geographic about the effects of time and aging on the body, and this was where he discovered that he has two copies of the APOE4 gene that has been linked to an increased risk of the degenerative disease.

Dire as it may sound, the 39-year-old Hemsworth said he did not want to overdramatize his condition, and said: “It’s not like I’ve been handed my resignation.”

The Australian actor also told Vanity Fair that doing an episode on mortality for the show made him want to take a break and spend time with his family. 

“It really triggered something in me to want to take some time off,” he said in the interview. 

“And since we finished the show, I’ve been completing the things I was already contracted to do. Now when I finish this tour this week, I’m going home and I’m going to have a good chunk of time off and just simplify. Be with the kids, be with my wife.” 

What is this Alzheimer’s Disease that seems to have triggered some soul-searching in one of Hollywood’s hottest actors?

What’s so bad about it

Alzheimer’s is a form dementia and is a degenerative disease of the brain that affects memory, thinking behavior, and emotion.

Dementia refers to the deterioration of an individual’s cognitive function beyond what could be considered the usual consequence of biological aging, the World Health Organization said.

Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia and may contribute to 60-70 percent of cases, the WHO said. 

People with Alzheimer’s lose their memory and have difficulty recognizing people including family and friends, as well as recalling new persons, events, situations, and information. 

They also have a hard time finding the right words and understanding what people are saying, according to the Philippine Department of Health. 

Alzheimer’s patients likewise find it challenging to do previously routine tasks. Their personality and mood also become altered, the DOH added. 

So many memories lost 

Worldwide, there are more than 55 million living with dementia, and some 10 million new cases arise every year, according to the WHO.

Dementia is also the seventh leading cause of death among all diseases and one of the major causes of disability and dependency among older people globally, it said. 

It mainly affects older people, but it does not mean all people who get old will get it, 

The WHO said the number of people with dementia is expected to rise to 78 million 2030 and 139 million in 2050, as the proportion of older people in the population increases. 

What causes it 

Alzheimer’s Disease is caused by the destruction of brain cells that disrupt the transmitters that carry messages in the brain, particularly those responsible for storing memories, according to the DOH. 

However, the cause of the destruction of the brain cells remains unknown, the DOH said. But it said there have been studies showing that genetic factors could play a part in causing Alzheimer’s in an individual. 

No cure so far 

There is no known cure for Alzheimer’s Disease so far, according to the DOH. 

It is usually handled by providing supportive medical care, medications for specific symptoms including disruptive behavior, and emotional support for patients and families.

How to deal with Alzheimer’s

The Alzheimer’s Disease Association of the Philippines recommends that those who suspect that they or their loved ones may be coming down with the condition should get a diagnosis as early as possible through memory assessment or cognitive evaluation.

It said treatment for the disease to delay its progression is available and would be most effective in the early stages. 

It also recommends educating oneself and others about the disease in order to prepare for its effects, and planning for the future in the early stages of the condition. This can lessen confusion and disagreements later on.

The group also said people should stay positive by accepting their changing feelings and going easy on themselves should they be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. They should stay active and spend time with families and loved ones. 

Protect your brain, you’ll get older, too

The DOH said there are steps that people could take to help reduce their risk of getting Alzheimer’s Disease.

These include eating right, exercising, staying mentally and socially active, and keeping stress in check. 

A brain-healthy lifestyle could prevent Alzheimer’s symptoms and slow down deterioration caused by aging, it said.

The WHO said studies have shown that avoiding harmful use of alcohol, avoiding smoking, controlling weight, eating a healthy diet, and maintaining healthy blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar level could also reduce the risk of cognitive decline.

Photo credit: Chris Hemsworth Instagram



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