Scans of mummies reveal ancient Egyptians had heart disease



Posted on November 17, 2009 at 7:15 PM

Updated Friday, Jan 4 at 10:45 AM

For years doctors have been trying to figure out why heart disease is such a problem for so many, including those who seem to be living a healthy lifestyle. It turns out they may have gotten some answers from the past and ancient Egyptian mummies that had heart disease just like us.

If you think it's our hectic, on-the-go, fast food lifestyle to blame for today's high rates of heart disease, here's some food for thought.

Researchers recently found atherosclerosis in an unexpected place. That's right - CT scans show the ancient Egyptians had heart disease.

“Diseases we see in arteries of these ancient mummies looks just like they see in modern day patients," said Dr. Randall Thompson, cardiologist.

Twenty-two mummies from the Museum of Antiquities in Cairo were put through the body scans, including Lady Rai, the nursemaid to Queen Amos Nefertiti.

"We know her name, her employer, and other sarcophagus, and the name of her parents," said Thompson.

She also had heart disease. In fact, researchers found many of the female and male mummies, especially those who died after age 45, had diseased hearts, raising new questions about the cause.

"They didn't smoke, they didn't eat trans fats. They got more exercise than us," said Thompson.

It seems the clues about heart disease may also be among the mysteries of ancient Egypt.

“This disease is a genetic hand me down. It’s as old as Moses," said Thompson.

And we may have to look beyond modern times to find answers to what ails us.

Doctors caution this is not license to go out and eat fatty food, but it does explain why some people who try to live healthy still have problems with heart disease. The findings were presented Tuesday at the American Heart Association meeting in Orlando, Florida.