Studies published by the Journal of the American Medical Association tell us that atherosclerosis has been around since the times of Moses. While well publicized recent studies have shown that evidence of cancer was not present in the bodies of Egyptian mummies (rendering the possibility that cancer is a human-created disease), it seems that they were not so lucky when it came to heart disease.
Heart disease was actually quite common at least among the well-to-do of ancient Egyptian society (where only the upper class could be mummified). CT scans were performed on 22 mummies, aged 20 to 60 at the time of death, which are housed in the Museum of Antiquities in Cairo, Egypt, and date as far back as 1981 B.C. - nearly 4,000 years ago. The CT images showed evidence of blood vessels in 16 of the mummies which were then subjected to further examination looking for the buildup of calcium in the inner walls of blood vessels, which is considered diagnostic of atherosclerosis.
The results were quite interesting, as definite atherosclerosis was present in five of the 16 mummies and probable in four. Calcification was significantly more common in the mummies estimated to be 45 or older at the time of death, where calcification was present in seven of the eight mummies, compared with two of eight who were estimated to have died at a younger age. Men and women were equally likely to have atherosclerosis.
The outcome of this study brings up more questions than answers. Is heart disease simply a result of lifestyle and diet? Or are there other causes (such as bacterial) that might cause atherosclerosis in human beings? One side will certainly argue that this recent discovery shows that using statins is the only way to deter full blown heart disease, while the other side will dispute that since only a small percentage of this ancient population was used in this study, the results are flawed. True, upper class ancient Egyptians probably ate richer foods, and led a more sedentary lifestyle, but we won't know for sure.
I am not here to pick a side, but will simply say that from a personal perspective, using statins (and Lipitor in particular) was an important component in fighting this disease. The latest medical technology and evolution in medical research has made it possible for many with heart disease to lead rather comfortable lives. Whether you are trying to control your high cholesterol and heart disease through diet, lifestyle changes, statin drugs, or supplements, make sure to consult your cardiologist.
Published On: October 21, 2010