Researchers have found signs of heart disease in 3 500-year-old mummies.
"We think of it as being caused by modern risk factors," such as
fast food, smoking and a lack of exercise, but the findings show
that these aren't the only reasons arteries clog, said Dr Randall
Thompson, a cardiologist at the Mid America Heart Institute in
He and several other researchers used CT scans, a type of X-ray,
on 22 mummies kept in the Egyptian National Museum of Antiquities
in Cairo. The subjects were from 1981 BC to 334 AD Half were
thought to be over 45 when they died, and average lifespan was
under 50 back then.
Sixteen mummies had heart and blood vessel tissue to analyse. Definite or probable hardening of the arteries was seen in nine.
"We were struck by the similar appearance of vascular
calcification in the mummies and our present-day patients," said
another researcher, Dr Michael Miyamoto of the University of
California at San Diego. "Perhaps the development of
atherosclerosis is a part of being human."
Oldest mummy with heart disease was female
One mummy had evidence of a possible heart attack but scientists
don't know if it was fatal. Nor can they tell how much these people
weighed -mummification dehydrates the body.
Of those whose identities could be determined, all were of high
social status, and many served in the court of the Pharaoh or as
priests or priestesses.
"Rich people ate meat, and they did salt meat, so maybe they had
hypertension (high blood pressure), but that's speculation,"
With modern diets, "we all sort of live in the Pharaoh's court,"
said another of the researchers, Dr Samuel Wann of the Wisconsin
Heart Hospital in Milwaukee.
The oldest mummy with heart disease signs was Lady Rai, a
nursemaid to Queen Ahmose Nefertari who died around 1530 BC - 200
years before King Tutankhamun.
German imaging company Siemens AG, the National Bank of Egypt
and the Mid-America Heart Institute paid for the work. Results are
in this week's Journal of the American Medical Association and were
reported at an American Heart Association conference. – (Sapa, November 2009)