There is a great deal of discussion about whether so called lifestyle diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and atherosclerosis are a result of our modern day living or if they were also common in our ancestors. With our current lack of daily movement, disruptions in normal sleep cycles, poor diets, and chronic stress levels, the idea that these diseases are more common today certainly makes sense.
The Horus study looked to determine whether ancient Egyptians suffered from atherosclerosis. Via CT scans, this study found that 44 of 52 mummies had identifiable cardiovascular structures and 20 had either definite atherosclerosis (12) or probable atherosclerosis (8). The study authors discuss risk factors such as tobacco, which was unavailable, and the lack of modern transportation which made an active lifestyle likely. They also discuss diet and the fact that ancient Egyptians were not hunter-gatherers and had formed an organized agricultural society, stating “it is plausible that the composition of their diet contributed to the development of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease.”
Atherosclerosis in Ancient Egyptian Mummies: The Horus Study. Journal of American College of Cardiology Imaging (2011) 4:315-327 originally published online April 3, 2011 doi: 10.1016/j.jcmg.2011.02.002