Coronal 3D volume rendered CT reconstruction showing carotid artery disease. Bilateral carotid, bilateral subclavian, and brachiocephalic calcification of Hatiay (mummy 23), a male Egyptian scribe aged 40–50 years, who lived during the New Kingdom (1570–1293 BCE) and was found near modern day Luxor (Photo : "Atherosclerosis across 4000 years of human history: the Horus study of four ancient populations" in The Lancet)
It's not just modern day surface dwellers that have problems with clogged arteries - turns out our distant ancestors did too. A new study has come out saying that they've found evidence of artery-related issues in the 137 mummies examined.
The key here, the authors are hoping, is to elicit the point that while the fatty culture of today might play a large, if not crucial, role in modern-day health problems, the very same atherosclerosis-related demons existed without a McDonalds.
"This is not a disease only of modern circumstance but a basic feature of human aging in all populations," said Caleb Finch, USC University Professor, ARCO/ Kieschnick Professor of Gerontology at the USC Davis School of Gerontology, and a senior author of the study. "Turns out even a Bronze Age guy from 5,000 years ago had calcified, carotid arteries."
Dr. Finch is referring to the "Iceman," a mummy from around 3200 BCE found in the Italian Alps back in 1991.
In essence, the crux of the study is a valuable lesson we can all learn. That problems are not derived from a single culprit, but are rather the result of alot of inevitable forces of nature (karmic, almost). What is important is to not rely on a safety net that merely treats symptoms - simply cutting back on fatty foods isn't good enough to keep your arteries fine and dandy - but to realize there is a lot of exercise, mental health, and emotional stresses that can all play a role and need to be dealt with. Many of them come with age, and cannot be handles by simply "dieting."
"Our research shows that we are all at risk for atherosclerosis, the disease that causes heart attacks and strokes -- all races, diets and lifestyles," said Thomas, medical director of the Long Beach Memorial MemorialCare Heart & Vascular Institute. "Because of this we all need to be cautious of our diet, weight and exercise to minimize its impact. The data gathered about individuals from the pre-historic cultures of ancient Peru and the Native Americans living along the Colorado River and the Unangan of the Aleutian Islands is forcing us to think outside the box and look for other factors that may cause heart disease."
So the next time you plan to play that "2 miles equals 1 burger routine," bear in mind - it's not just the burger you're fighting against, it's also Father Time himself.
You can read the published study in the journal The Lancet.