LONG BEACH (CBSLA.com) — It appears burgers and cigarettes aren’t entirely to blame for clogged arteries.
Heart disease was recently discovered in 4,000-year-old mummies, according to a new study.
Dr. Gregory Thomas, the study’s senior author and the medical director of the MemorialCare Heart and Vascular Institute at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center, led a team of scientists and doctors into Egypt where they were given access to study cardiovascular disease in ancient mummies.
Thomas said they opened up each sarcophagus and ran the body through a CT scan machine.
The cardiologist said he initially didn’t believe the mummies would show any signs of atherosclerosis, or hardened arteries.
“I believed the Egyptians wouldn’t have any blockages at all. There’s no cars, no transportation, they had to walk everywhere. Their diet was all-natural, no trans fats, there’s no cigarettes,” he said.
Heart disease, however, was ever-present in prehistoric times.
“We found that 34 percent of the mummies actually had blockages. Of those over 40, half of those had blockages,” said Thomas.
The results were so remarkable that the doctors did the same study on mummies in South America.
In one case, the British Museum had six mummies shipped to Southern California for scans, as well.
Thomas said he’s not sure what to make of the findings, which were published by the journal Lancet.
“I’m not quite sure what to eat. I think I’ll still stick with a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet. I don’t think we understand heart disease as well as we thought we did,” he said.
Thomas will head to Peru in three weeks to continue examining ancient bodies.