Too late for an angioplasty
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.