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Scans of Egyptian Mummies Show Heart Disease Was Ancient Malady
Date:5/17/2011

TUESDAY, May 17 (HealthDay News) -- Modern technology reveals that ancient Egyptians, including a princess of noble blood, suffered from coronary artery disease, according to a new report.

The Horus study, which used whole-body computerized tomography (CT) scanning to visualize the arteries of 52 ancient Egyptian mummies, found that atherosclerosis -- plaque build-up in the arteries -- was common among a group of middle-age and older ancient Egyptians.

"Overall, it was striking how much atherosclerosis we found," Dr. Gregory S. Thomas, director of nuclear cardiology education at the University of California, Irvine, and co-principal investigator of the study, said in a news release from the European Society of Cardiology.

"We think of atherosclerosis as a disease of modern lifestyle, but it's clear that it also existed 3,500 years ago," he said. "Our findings certainly call into question the perception of atherosclerosis as a modern disease."

The study, slated for presentation Tuesday at the International Conference of Non-Invasive Cardiovascular Imaging, in Amsterdam, found that recognizable arteries were present in 44 of the 52 mummies scanned. Arterial calcification, a marker of atherosclerosis, was also evident in almost half of the mummies scanned.

Atherosclerosis in the coronary arteries was evident in three of the mummies investigated, including Princess Ahmose-Meryet-Amon, a noble who lived in Thebes (Luxor) between 1580 and 1550 B.C.

"Today, she would have needed bypass surgery," Thomas said.

The princess, who died in her 40s, probably would have eaten a diet rich in vegetables and fruit and with limited servings of meat. The researchers also noted that wheat and barley were dietary staples during this period of ancient Egypt and that tobacco and trans-fats were still unknown.

Considering the relatively healthy and active lifestyle in ancient Egypt, Thomas and his co-principa
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