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Mummies reveal hardened arteries

Something modern Egyptians, pharaohs, native Peruvians and a Renaissance-era king shared: heart disease

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12:14pm, August 4, 2014

UNWRAPPED  Studies of mummies from around the world (an ancient Egyptian mummy undergoing a CT scan shown) reveal that hardening of the arteries has been a problem for more than 5,000 years. 

Atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, is usually thought of as a modern disease brought on by fatty diets, smoking and lack of exercise. But new studies of mummies from around the world show that the disease is an ancient affliction with a plethora of possible triggers.

In the June Global Heart, researchers present evidence of heart disease from a diverse array of mummies including the famous 5,300-year-old Tyrolean Iceman, 76 ancient Egyptians, 51 native Peruvians dating from the 3rd to 16th centuries, five Pueblo Indians who lived in Utah about 1,000 years ago, a Renaissance king, a 15th century nomad from the Gobi Desert and five 19th century hunter-gatherers from the Aleutian Islands. CT scans or autopsies revealed calcium deposits in artery walls of many of the mummies, a sign of vessel hardening.

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