Whole body CT scans show no significant differences in incidence or severity of atherosclerotic disease

July 31, 2014, World Heart Federation

New research published in Global Heart (the journal of the World Heart Federation) shows that there are no significant differences in the incidence or severity of atherosclerotic disease (narrowing of the arteries with fatty deposits) between ancient and modern Egyptians, showing that atherosclerosis is not just a disease of modern times. The research is by Dr Adel Allam, Al-Azhar University, Cairo, Egypt, and Professor Jagat Narula, Editor-in-Chief of Global Heart and Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, USA, and colleagues from the HORUS team of investigators.

While the HORUS team has previously reported atherosclerotic vascular calcifications on computed tomography (CT) scans in ancient Egyptians, the purpose of this new study was to compare patterns and demographic characteristics of this among Egyptians from both ancient and modern eras. The authors compared the presence and extent of vascular calcifications from whole-body CT scans performed on 178 modern Egyptians from Cairo undergoing positron emission tomography (PET)/CT for cancer staging to CT scans of 76 Egyptian mummies (3100 BCE to 364 CE). Patients undergoing cancer staging were selected for the study because these scans had already been completed for this group of patients as part of their cancer care.

The mean age of the modern Egyptian group was 52 years (range 14 to 84) versus estimated age at death of ancient Egyptian mummies 36 years (range 4 to 60). Vascular calcification (evidence of atherosclerosis) was detected in 108 of 178 (61%) of modern patients versus 26 of 76 (38%) of mummies, with vascular calcifications on CT strongly correlated to age in both groups. In addition, the severity of disease by number of involved arterial beds (or 'sites') also correlated to age, and there was a very similar pattern between the 2 groups.

However, the authors point out that there is of course more likely to be atherosclerosis in modern patients due to the higher age range. Once all modern patients aged over 60 years were excluded (with 60 years being the oldest age of death in the mummies) there was no significant difference in incidence or severity of between the two groups.

"Atherosclerosis has always been thought of as a disease of modern civilisation that is linked to risk factors such as a diet rich in fat, smoking, lack of exercise, high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity," says Dr Allam. "Although elite ancient Egyptians may have consumed a diet rich in fat, we do not have definite information if diabetes and high blood pressure were present at that time. However multiple other risk factors that are related to the disease were not present during ancient times, for example smoking and lack of exercise. Thus we definitely expected to see more atherosclerotic disease in modern Egyptians compared to ancient Egyptians."

The authors conclude: "Elucidation of risk factors underlying the development and progression of atherosclerosis helps identify effective strategies for the prevention and treatment of this common human disease, atherosclerosis. Our knowledge on risk factor patterns among ancient Egyptians, including associated conditions such as diabetes, abnormal blood fat levels, and high , is incomplete. Further studies comparing varying environmental and genetic predispositions to the development of between ancient and modern Egyptians are warranted."

Explore further: Heart disease haunted mummies, too

Related Stories

Heart disease haunted mummies, too

April 3, 2014
(HealthDay)—Though the pyramids are proof of the ancient Egyptians' architectural skills, new research on mummies tucked away inside them unearths a lesser known fact: heart disease was as common then as it is today.

Egyptian princess was first person with diagnosed coronary artery disease

May 17, 2011
The coronary arteries of Princess Ahmose-Meryet-Amon - as visualised by whole body computerised tomography (CT) scanning - will feature in two presentations at the International Conference of Non-Invasive Cardiovascular Imaging ...

Even ancient mummies had clogged arteries, study shows

March 11, 2013
Even without modern-day temptations like fast food or cigarettes, people had clogged arteries some 4,000 years ago, according to the biggest-ever hunt for the condition in mummies.

Recommended for you

Proteins cooperate to break up energy structures in oxygen starved heart cells

November 19, 2018
During a heart attack, the supply of oxygen to heart cells is decreased. This reduced oxygen level, called hypoxia, causes the cell's powerhouses, the mitochondria, to fragment, impairing cell function and leading to heart ...

Bullying and violence at work increases the risk of cardiovascular disease

November 19, 2018
People who are bullied at work or experience violence at work are at higher risk of heart and brain blood vessel problems, including heart attacks and stroke, according to the largest prospective study to investigate the ...

Genetic analysis links obesity with diabetes, coronary artery disease

November 16, 2018
A Cleveland Clinic genetic analysis has found that obesity itself, not just the adverse health effects associated with it, significantly increases the risk of Type 2 diabetes and coronary artery disease. The paper was published ...

Non-coding genetic variant could improve key vascular functions

November 15, 2018
Atherosclerotic disease, the slow and silent hardening and narrowing of the arteries, is a leading cause of mortality worldwide. It is responsible for more than 15 million deaths each year, including an estimated 610,000 ...

Study of two tribes sheds light on role of Western-influenced diet in blood pressure

November 14, 2018
A South American tribe living in near-total isolation with no Western dietary influences showed no increase in average blood pressure from age one to age 60, according to a study led by researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg ...

Heart failure patients shouldn't stop meds even if condition improves: study

November 13, 2018
(HealthDay)—There's bad news for heart failure patients with dilated cardiomyopathy who'd like to stop taking their meds.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.