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Hi-tech scans of ancient mummies from around the world show evidence of heart disease

Hi-tech scans of ancient mummies from around the world show evidence of heart disease

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Research has shown that some Egyptian mummies, dating back as far as 3,500 years ago, show evidence of clogged arteries and heart disease.  However, critics had dismissed the findings as being related to their luxurious, fatty diets, rather than to any kind of genetic predisposition. However, a new study has found that it was not just the wealthy and indulgent elite of ancient Egypt who suffered from the condition. High-tech scans of 76 mummies from all around the world, who came from a variety of different social backgrounds, revealed that a significant percentage suffered from clogged arteries, a condition which can lead to heart attacks and strokes.

It is widely assumed that today's high rates of heart and artery disease are primarily the result of unhealthy modern lifestyles. But if this were the whole story, we would not expect to find the condition in ancient humans.

“Atherosclerosis is supposed to be a disease of modern civilisation,” said Dr Adel Allam, a nuclear cardiologist at Cairo’s Al Azhar University.  “It's supposed to be explained by the fact that we're eating all the wrong foods, not exercising enough, becoming obese and having diabetes. And a lot of people have said that if we could just go back to the way our ancestors were living we could even lose this problem.”

However, new research suggests that a fatty diet is not the complete picture. In the latest study, Dr Allam and colleagues extended previous research by including naturally mummified remains from different areas, including Peru, Alaska, Nevada, and Mongolia, and from different socioeconomic backgrounds.  The sample of 76 mummies were then subjected to high-tech scans which revealed that 38 per cent of them had arterial disease. The results were compared to 178 scans from a modern population and it was found that there was no difference in severity between the ancient and the modern samples.

The researchers concluded that unhealthy modern lifestyles, poor diet, and obesity are not the only cause of heart disease and suggested that we should not discount the role that genetics play in the condition.

Featured image: Egyptian mummy undergoing a CT scan. Photo source.

By April Holloway

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April Holloway is a Co-Owner, Editor and Writer of Ancient Origins. For privacy reasons, she has previously written on Ancient Origins under the pen name April Holloway, but is now choosing to use her real name, Joanna Gillan.

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