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Pharaoh princess had hardened arteries

5th April 2011

A mummified princess from the age of the Pharoahs is the world's first known case of atherosclerosis, according to a recent joint Egyptian-American study.

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While researchers have long known that ancient Egyptians suffered from heart disease, the new study suggests that atherosclerosis may be one of humanity's oldest and most common diseases.

The CT scans show that heart disease is not, as some doctors have previously believed, simply a byproduct of such modern lifestyle choices as tobacco smoking, lack of exercise, and high-fat diets.

Study co-author Gregory Thomas, a cardiologist at the University of California in Irvine, said it was possible that humans were genetically predisposed to heart disease.

Study co-author Adel Allam, of Al-Azhar University in Cairo, cautioned people against taking a lax attitude toward heart health, although humans appeared to be predisposed to atherosclerosis.

The mummy in question is thought to belong to a princess named Ahmose-Meyret-Anon, who is though to have died about 3,560 years ago.

Thomas said that the mummified princess represented the first known case of atherosclerosis.

Scientists and archaeologists believe that the ancient Egyptians ate leaner meat, as well as more fruit and vegetables than people do today.

Thomas said that, since the ancient Egyptians developed heart disease just as frequently as modern humans do, doctors should take even more precautions to ensure that their patients maintained proper heart health.

Patients who have a high risk of heart disease should aim to lose weight, stop smoking, and exercise more.

Nearly two years ago, Thomas and his research team reported that, out of 16 mummies under study, nine showed signs of hardened arteries.

For the recent study, the researchers examined 52 mummies.

One of the mummies had lived sometime in the 4th century AD, while another lived nearly 4,000 years ago.

The researchers found that 44 of the 52 mummies had signs of calcification, a sign of hardened arteries.

About 20% of the mummified people who had died before age 40 showed signs of atherosclerosis, compared to 60% of the people who had died after age 40.

Thomas said that the new information about heart disease pointed to a missing link in the scientific understanding of heart disease.

 

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