Madonna King: Chris Hemsworth has made a decision worthy of a real-life hero

Hemsworth admits he's not invincible and is scared of dying.

Hemsworth admits he's not invincible and is scared of dying. Photo: TND/National Geographic

Is there no end to Chris Hemsworth’s talents?

As politically incorrect as it might be, his screen idol looks have fans lining up at the box office before it opens. And then there’s his acting ability, which has brought half of Hollywood to Australia. His appeal has helped sell tourism campaigns across the nation, too.

And now, he’s the reason for the latest water bubbler chit-chat about whether you should know your likelihood of developing specific diseases.

For Hemsworth, it’s Alzheimer’s disease, after he found out – while taking part in Disney+ documentary series Limitless – he has two copies of the gene APOE-e4, inherited from both his parents.

The actor found out about his Alzheimer’s risk through his work on the show Limitless.

That doesn’t mean the 39-year-old Hollywood actor will develop Alzheimer’s, but having one copy increases your risk of developing the disease two to three times. Two genes makes that risk higher; maybe even eight to 12 times.

Of course, some people develop Alzheimer’s without either of those genes and other factors – genetic and environmental – are at play too, according to medicos. Hemsworth’s test is not a diagnosis either; just a big red flag.

And that’s the tricky bit. Do you want to know that your risk of developing a particular disease is much higher than the general population? And would it change how you act tomorrow?

Here, I’ll admit to being a hypocrite. Already, many women are tested for the BRCA gene, and if positive, choose to have their breasts and ovaries removed because of the increased chance of developing cancer.

I call that sensible, and applaud friends who have made that brave decision on the basis that it has a real chance of prolonging their life.

But that’s the clincher, isn’t it? It is likely to save their lives. In this case, knowledge can deliver a cure.

Do I really want to know if I have an increased genetic risk of developing a horrible disease, where an operation is not available to surgically remove the risk?

That’s the difficult question.

Wine and cheese has largely been removed from my home, already, on the back of my husband’s cardiac arrest.

But would we have consumed less, over the years, if we knew of the heightened risk?

And where does the risk set in? How many pieces of cheese? How many drinks?

Sun exposure causes cancer. We know that, and wear sunscreen to combat that risk.

We don’t take up smoking, or put it on our New Year’s resolution list each year, because we know the life-threatening warnings that gift wrap a packet of cigarettes.

We know obesity comes with risks. Tanning beds have been banned because of causal links to cancer.

And it’s not just cancer. Across our lives, we follow rules and regulations to ensure we are safe.

Swimming between the flags. Not drink or drug driving. Not speeding. Crossing the lights at an intersection. We worry, ahead of a skydive, that our parachute might get stuck. Some of us worry every time we get onto a plane.

But they are factors we can do something about. Don’t fly. Don’t drink. Don’t smoke. Stay active. Reduce alcohol consumption.

Elsa Pataky Chris Hemsworth

Hemsworth is taking time out to spend with wife Elsa Pataky and their three children.

A genetic test is different, and especially one where knowledge can increase anxiety, and not necessarily decrease risk.

I wonder if Chris Hemsworth would have done this test, if it wasn’t part of a documentary?

But he did. And the decision he’s made is as stellar as every movie in which he’s starred. He’s taking time off from acting, to be with his partner Elsa Pataky and their three children in Byron Bay, and to focus on his healthy lifestyle including sleep, stress management, nutrition and exercise.

Not all of us could afford to do that, either.

So would I take a genetic test for something like Alzheimer’s Disease?

I’m not sure I’m as brave as Thor.

Would you?

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