Heart disease a 4000-year old ‘serial killer’

From ABC News in Science, 11 March 2013:

The diseased arteries of ancient mummies are challenging modern assumptions about the causes of cardiovascular disease.

Whole-body CT scans of 137 mummies from different countries, cultures and lifestyles spanning 4000 years of history has found evidence of hardened arteries in at least one-third of the mummies.

The international study, published today in the Lancet, calls into question the assumption that cardiovascular disease is a uniquely modern disease resulting from poor diet and lifestyle choices.

“I’d say we’ve shown heart disease is a serial killer that’s stalked mankind for 4000 years,” says lead author Dr Randall C. Thompson, attending cardiologist at Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute in Kansas City.

The mummies included individuals from ancient Egypt, ancient Peru, the Ancestral Puebloans of the southwest America, and the Unangan of Alaska’s Aleutian Islands.

Critically for the study the Unangan people lived a traditional hunter-gatherer lifestyle.

“Some people believe that a hunter-gatherer lifestyle should be more natural for our genetic machinery than the artificial food and inactivity that we have,” says Thompson.

“[But] three out of the five of the Aleutian mummies had these calcifications, the sediment that forms in the arteries when the disease happens.” Read more. 

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