Daily Mail

CAIRO - Unhealthy modern lifestyles aren’t the only cause of heart disease, say scientists, who have found clogged arteries in Egyptian mummies. Scans of 4,000-year-old mummies have revealed evidence of hardening of the arteries – a condition which can lead to heart attacks and strokes.

Earlier studies had revealed fatty arteries in a large number of Egyptian mummies but critics had dismissed the find as related to their luxurious, fatty diets. ‘Atherosclerosis is supposed to be a disease of modern civilisation,’ Dr Adel Allam, a nuclear cardiologist at Cairo’s Al Azhar University told Alan Mozes of Health Day.

‘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,’ he added. Dr Allam and his colleagues presented their findings at the recently concluded American College of Cardiology annual meeting, in Washington.

The group had previously found identified hardening of the arteries in 16 mummies at the Egyptian National Museum of Antiquities in Cairo. Of these, nine showed evidence of atherosclerosis - build-up of fatty materials such as cholesterol, in blood vessels. But the group decided to expand their initial study to include naturally mummified specimens from other societies and economic backgrounds.

Samples were gathered from Lima, Peru; from the Aleutian people in Alaska; from Native Americans in Nevada; and from people in Mongolia. Dr Allam said he wanted to respond to any criticism that mummies of Egypt only represented a rich elite, who would have eaten more fatty foods. The scientists scanned 76 mummies from around the world and arterial disease was found in around 38 per cent of them, with the average age of death estimated at 37. The team also scanned 178 Cairo cancer patients, aged from 14 to 48, and found that 61 per cent of them had arterial hardening. ‘There was no difference between the mummies and patients in terms of atherosclerosis incidence or severity.’

Dr Allam said. ‘They were nearly equivalent’. Dr Allam added that heart disease risk is not just about poor diet and obesity, but that genetics may also come into play.