Even ancient Egyptians 'suffered heart disease'


 Yes, scientists have detected heart disease in ancient Egyptians, after taking X-ray scans of 22 mummies dating back to more than 3,500 years.

An international team has identified hardening of the arteries, called atherosclerosis, which means a build-up of fatty materials or lipids such as cholesterol, in blood vessels, the 'Daily Mail' reported.

Despite their age, 16 of the mummies at the Egyptian National Museum of Antiquities in Cairo had heart and blood vessel tissue that could be analysed. Of these, nine showed evidence of atherosclerosis.

Some mummies had calcification in up to six different arteries. One mummy had evidence of a possible heart attack but the scientists were unsure if it had been fatal. Nor could they tell how much these ancient Egyptians weighed as the process of mummification dehydrates the body.

Lead scientist Randall Thompson said the findings suggested that modern risk factors -- such as fast food, smoking and lack of exercise -- were not the only causes of heart disease.

Thompson was quoted as saying: "While we do not know whether atherosclerosis caused the demise of any of the mummies in the study, we can confirm that the disease was present in many.

"So humans in ancient times had the genetic predisposition and environment to promote the development of heart disease. The findings suggest that we may have to look beyond modern risk factors to fully understand the disease."

According to the scientists, the mummies were of high social-economic status, and many served in the court of the Pharaoh or as priests or priestesses. The oldest mummy to show signs of heart disease was Lady Rai, a nursemaid to Queen Ahmose Nefertari who died around 1530 BC.

"Rich people ate meat, and they did salt meat, so maybe they had hypertension (high blood pressure), but that's speculation," said Thompson, whose findings are published in the 'Journal of the American Medical Association'.

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