Too late for an an­gio­plasty

Modern Healthcare - - Outliers -

An Egyp­tian princess who lived more than 3,500 years ago is the old­est known per­son to have had clogged ar­ter­ies, dis­pelling the myth that heart disease is a prod­uct of mod­ern so­ci­ety, a study says.

To de­ter­mine how com­mon heart disease was in an­cient Egypt, sci­en­tists per­formed com­puter scans on 52 mum­mies in Cairo and the U.S. Among those that still had heart tis­sue, 44 had chunks of cal­cium stuck to their ar­ter­ies—in­di­cat­ing clog­ging. “Ath­er­o­scle­ro­sis clearly ex­isted more than 3,000 years ago,” says Dr. Adel Al­lam, a car­di­ol­ogy pro­fes­sor at Al Azhar Univer­sity in Cairo, who led the study with Gre­gory Thomas, di­rec­tor of nu­clear car­di­ol­ogy ed­u­ca­tion at the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia at Irvine. “We can­not blame this disease on mod­ern civ­i­liza­tion.”

The re­search was pre­sented re­cently at a con­fer­ence on heart imag­ing in Am­s­ter­dam. Al­lam and col­leagues found the Egyp­tian princess Ah­moseMeryet-Amon, who lived in Thebes (now Luxor) be­tween 1540 and 1550 B.C., had cal­cium de­posits in two main coro­nary ar­ter­ies, mak­ing her the old­est mummy found with heart disease. Al­lam said the princess’ clogged ar­ter­ies looked re­mark­ably sim­i­lar to heart disease in con­tem­po­rary Egyp­tians. The 43 younger mum­mies with cal­cium de­posits showed a num­ber of heart and artery prob­lems.

Ex­perts say that dur­ing the princess’ life­time, beef, pork, mut­ton, an­te­lope, duck and other meats were read­ily avail­able in the royal courts. Egyp­tians didn’t eat much fish but ate many kinds of fruits and veg­eta­bles. Salt was also likely used to pre­serve their food.


Egyp­tol­o­gist Ibra­hem Badr pre­pares the princess’ mummy for a CT scan.

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