Lifestyle & Belief

Mummies prove that even ancients had heart problems


Researchers used CT scans on 137 mummies and found signs of cardiovascular problems, possibly proving that heart disease is not only a modern problem.


Carmen Jaspersen/DPA

New research has discovered that even ancient humans had heart disease.

Researchers from around the world used CT scans on 137 mummies and found signs of cardiovascular problems.

Heart disease is thought to be a a modern disease caused by high fat diets and a lack of exercise. But the new research may suggest that humans are predisposed to heart troubles.

The mummies studied included 76 Egyptians, 51 Peruvians and 10 mummies from other parts of the world, said USA Today.

They were believed to represent a cross-section of their societies, rather than royalty or one particular class. And, heart disease was spread out among the mummies, not concentrated in one geographic group.

About one-third of the mummies, 47 out of 137, were found to have hardened arteries — a sign of heart disease.

"The fact that we found similar levels of atherosclerosis in all of the different cultures we studied, all of whom had very different lifestyles and diets, suggests that atherosclerosis may have been far more common in the ancient world than previously thought," said study leader Professor Randall Thompson, of Saint Luke's Mid America Heart Institute in Kansas City, reported the BBC.

Cardiologists said that while the research may challenge modern notions of what contributes to heart disease, it doesn't mean people should lose a sense of vigilance about health and diet.

"The message here is not that we can't do anything about heart disease," the Mayo Clinic's Stephen Kopecky, president of the American Society for Preventive Cardiology, told the Los Angeles Times.

"This is not a fait accompli."