In the current study, probable or definite atherosclerosis was noted in 47 (34%) of 137 mummies from all four geographical populations: 29 (38%) of 76 ancient Egyptians, 13 (25%) of 51 ancient Peruvians, two (40%) of five Ancestral Puebloans, and three (60%) of five Unangan hunter gatherers (p=NS). Atherosclerosis was present in the aorta in 28 (20%) mummies, iliac or femoral arteries in 25 (18%), popliteal or tibial arteries in 25 (18%), carotid arteries in 17 (12%), and coronary arteries in six (4%). Of the five vascular beds examined, atherosclerosis was present in one to two beds in 34 (25%) mummies, in three to four beds in 11 (8%), and in all five vascular beds in two (1%). Age at time of death was positively correlated with atherosclerosis (mean age at death was 43 [SD 10] years for mummies with atherosclerosis vs 32  years for those without; p<0.0001) and with the number of arterial beds involved (mean age was 32 [SD 15] years for mummies with no atherosclerosis, 42  years for those with atherosclerosis in one or two beds, and 44  years for those with atherosclerosis in three to five beds; p<0.0001).
The authors conclude that atherosclerosis was common in four preindustrial populations including preagricultural hunter-gatherers. The authors discuss that while commonly assumed to be a modern disease, the presence of atherosclerosis in premodern human beings raises the possibility of a more basic predisposition to the disease.
1. Thompson RC, Allam AH, Lombardi GP, et al. Atherosclerosis across 4000 years of human history: the Horus study of four ancient populations. The Lancet, Early Online Publication, 11 March 2013
doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(13)60598-XCite or Link Using DOI
2. Allam AH, Thompson RC, Wann LS, et al. Atherosclerosis in Ancient Egyptian Mummies the Horus Study. JACC Cardiovasc Imaging. 2011; 4(4):315-327.