Proof heart disease is an ancient problem: Autopsy finds 3,500-year-old Egyptian princess had clogged arteries
- 44 out of 52 mummies examined had clogged arteries
To determine how common heart disease was in ancient Egypt, scientists performed computer scans on 52 mummies in Cairo and the United States.
Among those that still had heart tissue, 44 had chunks of calcium stuck to their arteries - indicating clogging.
Gruesome: The mummy of Maiherpri, from 1550-1295 BC, is prepared for examination at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo - one of 52 mummies to be examined
The research was presented on Tuesday at a conference on heart imaging in Amsterdam.
Allam and colleagues found the Egyptian princess Ahmose-Meryet-Amon, who lived in Thebes (now Luxor) between 1540 and 1550 B.C., had calcium deposits in two main coronary arteries, making her the oldest mummy found with heart disease.
Egyptologist Dr Ibrahem Badr prepares a mummy for scanning. Of the 52 mummies which still had heart tissue 44 had chunks of calcium stuck to their arteries - indicating clogging
Allam doubted she would have received much treatment beyond maybe taking special herbs or honey.
'If she were my patient today, she would get open heart surgery,' he said. He added the princess' clogged arteries looked remarkably similar to heart disease in contemporary Egyptians.
The 43 younger mummies with calcium deposits showed a range of heart and artery problems.
The sarcophagus containing the mummy Isis. Experts say that beef, pork, mutton, antelope, duck and other meats were readily available in the royal courts
Egyptians didn't eat much fish but ate many different kinds of fruits and vegetables. Salt was also likely used to preserve their food.
Joep Perk, a professor of health sciences at Linnaeus University in Sweden and a spokesman for the European Society of Cardiology, said the heart disease discovered in the mummies was probably due to the rich diet and lack of exercise among the Egyptian elite. He was not linked to the mummy research.
Princess Ahmose-Meryet-Amon lived in Luxor, pictured, between 1540 and 1550 B.C. She had calcium deposits in two main coronary arteries
He added there may have been other factors, like the stress of holding onto power and genetic factors that could have made the Egyptian ruling class more susceptible to heart disease.
He said Egyptian royals were more likely to be killed by heart problems after surviving other infections that would have killed poorer Egyptians. 'They simply had the good luck to live long enough to develop heart disease.'