4000-year-old mummies have cholesterol build up in their arteries, suggesting that heart disease was likely more common in ancient times than once thought, based on new research.
Prior research has examined arterial calcium accumulation in mummified human hearts, and arteries utilizing dissection and X-ray computed tomography (C.T.) scanning. However, this research confirmed injury that only occurs in the later stages of heart disease and presents an incomplete image of how widespread heart disease risk might have been thousands of years ago.
Now, researchers have examined arteries from five ancient mummies from South America and ancient Egypt, detecting an earlier stage of atherosclerosis when plaque collects on artery walls and restricts blood flow.
To answer those questions, Madjid and his colleagues collected arterial samples from 5mummies dating from 2000 B.C. to A.D. 1000; the stays represented three men and two women, who have been between 18 years old to 60 years old. The scientists scanned small sections of arteries, which have been just a few centimeters in length, Madjid informed Live Science. Their analysis revealed injuries from accumulated cholesterol, precursors to the plaque buildup that blocks arteries and results in heart attacks. This is the first proof of earlier-stage injuries in mummies from different parts of the world, the research authors wrote.
Earlier research discovered later-stage arterial plaque in mummies from Greenland dating almost 500 years ago, in Egyptian mummies dating to 3,000 years ago. C.T. scans of the mummified Ice Age hunter Ötzi revealed in the 2018 year that he was a suitable candidate for a heart attack, with three sections of hardened plaque close to his heart, Live Science previously reported.
Cholesterol deposits on arterial walls necessarily are the body’s wound healing mechanism went wrong, Madjid explained. “It is in response to multiple traumas such as infections, high cholesterol, exposure to smoke and other issues that may damage the internal lining of arteries, known as the endothelium,” he stated.
The body’s inflammatory response is a standard part of wound healing, however damaged arterial walls are vulnerable to the buildup of white blood cells, which may result in accumulations of cholesterol. This buildup first shows up as streaks and lesions, and might later thicken sufficient to block arterial blood flow, Madjid stated.