ATLANTA (CBS Atlanta) – A significant portion of the American populace is affected, in one way or another, by heart disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

In fact, a reported 600,000 people lose their lives to heart disease each year. The staggering number is said to account for 25 percent of all deaths in the United States annually.

The CDC official website additionally stated, “Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women.”

But while the prevalence of heart disease in modern American culture is known, there is another culture whose incidents of heart disease may come as a surprise – ancient Egypt.

Researchers have discovered signs of heart disease while scanning the internal organs of mummified bodies.

According to BCC News Health, the study, published in The Lancet, examined almost 140 mummies as old as 4,000 years, and found that a third suffered from hardened arteries.

The findings negate popular theories that the widespread nature of heart disease was symptomatic of increasingly unhealthy habits of modern cultures, the station learned.

“The fact that we found similar levels of atherosclerosis [or hardening of the arteries] in all of the different cultures we studied, all of whom had very different lifestyles and diets, suggests that atherosclerosis may have been far more common in the ancient world than previously thought,” study leader Professor Randall Thompson, of Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute, was quoted as saying by the BBC.

In all, 34 percent of the mummies examined shows signs of heart disease. The mummies were said to have lived in ancient societies in Egypt,  Peru, and several regions of the Americas.

Thompson additionally noted, “[T]he mummies we studied from outside Egypt were produced naturally as a result of local climate conditions, meaning that it’s reasonable to assume that these mummies represent a reasonable cross-section of the population, rather than the specially selected elite group of people who were selected for mummification in ancient Egypt.”

Still, modern medical experts say that the effects of heart disease can be avoided or abated by adopting a healthier lifestyle.

Noted Maureen Talbot, a senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, “We can’t change the past, but lifestyle choices can help to affect our future. By eating well, quitting smoking and keeping active, you can help to protect your heart.”


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