Abstract 537: Atherosclerosis: Not Just a Disease of Contemporary Humans
Background: Atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease is commonly ascribed to risk factors prevalent during modern times. Computed X-ray tomographic (CT) studies have demonstrated that arterial calcification is pathognomonic of atherosclerosis.
Methods: Six-slice CT was performed on 20 Egyptian mummies dating from 1981 BCE (Before Common Era) to 364 CE (Common Era). CT evidence of vascular tissue was identified in 13 specimens; the intact heart was imaged in 4 mummies.
Results: Calcification along the expected course of an artery (considered probable atherosclerosis) was present in 6 of the 13 mummies in whom vascular or cardiac tissue was identified. Calcification in the wall of a clearly identifiable artery (considered diagnostic of atherosclerosis) was present in 3 of these 6. The presence of calcification was more common in those estimated to be aged 45 years or older at the time of death (p =.029), but did not differ by sex (p = ns). The most ancient mummies with arterial calcification lived between 1570 –1530 BCE. The identity or social position could be determined for 14 mummies; all were of high social status.
Conclusion: Atherosclerosis is not only a disease of modern man, but was present and not unusual in humans living 3000 years ago. Figure.⇓ Calcified thickening in the aorta at the level of the aortic arch in the mummy of a female who lived during the 18th Egyptian Dynasty.