Ancient Egyptian Mummies Show Signs of Hardening of the Arteries, Too

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CT scans of Egyptian mummies show that heart disease may not be a product of modern lifestyle after all, the Los Angeles Times reported.

In a study of 52 Egyptian mummies dating from 1981 BC to AD 364, scientists were able to identify calcification – which indicates hardening of the arteries – in nearly half of them. In those who died before age 40, 20 percent showed signs of calcification. In those who died after age 40, 60 percent had calcification.

Most of the younger patients showed calcification in only one artery while the older ones had calcification in multiple vessels, and in some cases, the brain.

Though cardiologists have generally believed that atherosclerosis, the medical term for hardening of the arteries, is a byproduct of eating foods too high in fats, lack of exercise and smoking, the new findings suggest there may be other mechanisms driving the process.

The most ancient mummy with hardening of the arteries was a princess whose name was thought to be Ahmose-Meyret-Anon. She lived between about 1580 BC and 1550 BC and hers is the first known case of atherosclerosis in arteries of the heart.

Dr. Gregory S. Thomas, a cardiologist at UC Irvine believes the findings could mean that humans “are predisposed to atherosclerosis,” and “that it is part of our genetic makeup.”

Egyptians are known to have eaten more fruits and vegetables and less meat than we do, and their meat was leaner. They also led a more active lifestyle and were unlikely to have smoked. Because they developed atherosclerosis anyway, Thomas says it becomes even more important to take measures to hold off the disease for as long as possible, which include not smoking, eating less red meat and losing weight.

The study was published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology: Cardiovascular Imaging.

Click here to read more from the LA Times.