London: Our ancestors who lived 4,000 years ago might have also suffered heart attacks and strokes like many people today, a new study of mummies has suggested.
To see how healthy hearts were long before fast food and couch potato lifestyles emerged, a team of scientists studied 137 mummies from Egypt, Persia, China and South America dating back 4,000 years.
Results showed that over a third had signs of hardening and narrowing of the arteries (atherosclerosis), the primary cause of heart attacks and strokes caused by lack of blood to the brain, the Sun reported.
It has been widely assumed that the present rates of heart and artery disease could be blamed on unhealthy modern lifestyles.
But the latest findings, published in The Lancet medical journal, suggested other factors besides diet and lifestyle may play a big role.
Professor Randall Thompson, from Saint Luke`s Heart Institute in Kansas City, said that their findings suggest atherosclerosis may have been far more common in the ancient world than previously thought, as similar levels of atherosclerosis were found in all of the different cultures they studied, all of whom had very different lifestyles and diets.
He also noted that mummies they studied 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.
Overall 34 per cent showed evidence of arterial disease.
A common assumption is that these health problems are predominantly lifestyle-related, said Prof Thompson.
But we think it might be somehow inherent to the process of human ageing, he added.