Heart attack not a civilization disease?

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Scientific study: mummies with arterial calcification discovered

Arterial calcification could be directly related to the human aging process. This is suspected by an international team of researchers who, when examining mummies, discovered artherosclerosis, which was previously considered a disease of civilization. According to this, people suffered from deposits in the arteries 4,000 years ago. Consequences of hardening of the arteries such as heart attack and stroke are among the most common causes of death in industrialized countries.

Risk factors for hardening of the arteries include high-fat food, nicotine consumption and insufficient exercise. The fact that people suffered from this disease as early as 4,000 years ago sheds new light on the condition previously known as a disease of civilization. Could the human aging process be directly related to the disease? Randall Thompson of the "Saint Luke's Mid America Heart Institute" in Kansas City supports this thesis: "Based on the results, we believe that our understanding of the causes of arteriosclerosis is incomplete." Arterial calcification can be linked to aging, the expert said.

Mummies showed signs of arterial calcification For their study, scientists examined 137 mummies from four different world religions and epochs, which originated from ancient Egypt, Peru, Alaska and the southwestern United States, according to the British journal "The Lancet". In more than a third of the mummies, "signs of hardening of the arteries were found". "Atherosclerosis was already common in the four pre-industrial populations, including pre-agricultural hunters and gatherers," the researchers write.

According to information from the team led by study leader Randall Thompson, the mummies “could be used to investigate different periods of more than 4,000 years”. It was important to the researchers to cover the living conditions of the hunter-gatherer cultures right through to the agricultural societies. “The mummies, which do not come from Egypt, were also not preserved artificially, but rather through natural climate processes,” reports Thompson. The researchers were able to use complex investigations to find out that older people at that time had a higher risk of developing atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). "The risk of illness is comparable to today's modern societies," the scientists sum up. According to the study results, gender, region or age had little or no influence.

Western lifestyle aggravates atherosclerosis Today, along with cancer, atherosclerosis is one of the most common causes of death worldwide. So far, physicians have assumed that atherosclerosis is primarily a disease of wealth in the western world. Indeed: Above all, a high-fat diet, little exercise and cigarette consumption increase the risk of worsening atherosclerosis, which increases steadily with age. One of the most common consequences is a heart attack or stroke. According to calculations by the World Health Organization (WHO), both of these sequelae are among the second leading causes of death worldwide. (sb)

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Image: Harald Wanetschka / pixelio.de

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