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HE PLAYS THE God of Thunder, and we know him as an invincible superhero—and A-list Aussie-family bro—so when Hemsworth was hit with a genetic lightning bolt, it hit all of us. He took a genetic test for Limitless with Chris Hemsworth, the Nat Geo documentary series on longevity, and it revealed that he has two copies of the gene APOE e4, which is linked to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

“You’re constantly thinking you’re going to live forever, especially as a young individual,” Hemsworth said on Limitless. “Then to be told that this might be the thing that might take you out was like, whoa—it kinda floored me.”

Peter Attia, M.D., who specializes in longevity and is the consulting doctor on Limitless, explained to Hemsworth that while this gene increases your risk of Alzheimer’s—making it eight to ten times higher than everyone else’s—it doesn’t determine your fate: You can have the high-risk gene without ever developing the disease and, conversely, may not have the gene and can still develop Alzheimer’s.

What’s more, Dr. Attia believes that with aggressive lifestyle adjustments you can reduce your risk so that you’re just as susceptible as anyone else. On the show, Dr. Attia told Hemsworth, now 40, that he considers the test result a blessing: “This will motivate you to take steps today that most people [in their 40s] would never think about until they’re in their 50s or 60s.”

“It was a good kick in the arse and a reminder to do whatever is in my power to give myself the best fighting chance,” said Hemsworth. “Whatever work I’m doing for my brain health benefits the rest of my body—we turned it into a positive.”

The actor had the option of editing this revelation out of the show, but he chose to include it, and in doing so he displayed a different kind of strength and vulnerability beyond any of Thor’s superpowers. Hemsworth said he hopes that sharing his news will inspire other people in similar situations to “either go and get checked or to understand more about brain health and see what they have within their power to change.”

lately i’ve really felt the importance of taking time for yourself without any outside voice or stimulation and making time for stillness

There are various preventive tactics to lower your Alzheimer’s risk, according to Dr. Attia:

• EXERCISE: Both endurance work and strength training deliver benefits, including improved blood flow, better blood-sugar management, and boosted metabolic efficiency, as well as perks associated with reducing stress.

• SLEEP: During deep sleep, the brain is “cleaning house,” sweeping away intracellular waste that can build up between our neurons.

• BRUSHING AND FLOSSING: Yup, doing both can reduce systemic inflammation.

• SAUNA USE: Research suggests serious benefits: Four 20-minute sessions per week at 180 degrees Fahrenheit or hotter seems to be the sweet spot to reduce Alzheimer’s risk by 65 percent.

• HEARING: When there are fewer auditory inputs, your brain withers. If you’re losing your hearing, get hearing aids, stat!

Of course, Hemsworth is known for his fitness and even has his own training app, Centr. Since the lightning bolt struck, he has made adjustments to his mind-and-body regimens, with an eye to prioritizing brain health. “Now, I’m incorporating more solitude into my life,” he told MH in an exclusive interview. “I’ve always been pretty consistent with my exercise commitments, but lately I’ve really felt the importance of taking time for yourself without any outside voice or stimulation and making time for stillness.”

An additional aspect of that is finding time to do more mindfulness work. “I do a lot of meditation and breath work mostly during sauna and ice bath routines,” he says. “For me my favorite mindfulness work comes from the immersion in physical actives that allow me to be fully present and force me out of me head and into my body, in particular surfing.”

He’s also prioritizing getting more shut-eye. “I have a more consistent approach to my sleep,” he says. “Try to stay off screens an hour before bed and read most nights definitely helps. In addition focusing on not being attached to every thought and be the observer to the noise when possible , just stepping back from the internal chatter.”

Over the last year or so, Hemsworth has also been tweaking his fitness routine. “My weight fluctuates a lot due to differing roles and also my own interests in regards to challenging my body in different ways,” he says. “I’m lifting less frequently than I was and I’m incorporating more cardio and endurance workouts which I much prefer than heavy body building style sessions.”

Finally, he’s also trying to improve his work-life balance. “It made me think about my kids and how they’re growing up and things are changing so dramatically, and I want to sit, I want to soak it in,” he told Dr. Attia on his Drive podcast. “I don’t want to be in a sprint anymore. I want to be right here and appreciate everything that’s in front of me.”

mens health october november 2023 cover chris hemsworth

Steven Chee

This story originally appears in the October/November 2023 issue of Men’s Health.

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Ben Court is the Executive Editor of Men’s Health. He has a decade of experience writing and editing stories about peak performance, as it relates to health, nutrition, fitness, weight loss, and sex and relationships. He enjoys yoga, cycling, running, swimming, lifting, grilling, and napping.