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Sick Mummies

December 8, 2009

Researchers discover signs of heart disease in ancient Egyptian mummies.


Sick mummies…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

We tend to think of heart disease as a consequence of our modern diet and lifestyle. But a recent study of ancient Egyptian mummies calls this into question. UC Irvine cardiologist Greg Thomas and his colleagues made CT scans of a group of mummies. They were surprised to discover that many of them had atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, a sign of heart disease.

GREG THOMAS (University of California, Irvine):
I didn’t believe that these guys would have atherosclerosis, because I thought they lived a healthier life than we did.

Thomas says most of the mummies with atherosclerosis were older than 45 years of age when they died. The discovery suggests that while a healthful diet might slow it down, atherosclerosis may be an inevitable part of aging.

GREG THOMAS (University of California, Irvine):
We tend to think of atherosclerosis as something we can avoid. But I don’t actually think it is anymore. I think it’s probably part of the human condition.

I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.