CT scans of Egyptian mummies, some as much as 3,500 years old, show evidence of atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, which is normally thought of as a disease caused by modern lifestyles, researchers said Tuesday.
The study, presented at the American Heart Assn. meeting in Orlando, Fla., was conceived by Dr. Gregory Thomas, a cardiologist at UC Irvine, after he read about Pharoah Merenptah at the Egyptian National Museum of Antiquities in Cairo.
When he died at age 60 in 1203 BC, Merenptah was plagued by atherosclerosis, arthritis and dental decay.
Thomas reasoned that some evidence of the atherosclerosis -- which is characterized by calcium in plaques -- might still be present. He organized a team of cardiologists and Egyptologists who scanned a series of 20 mummies in the museum during a week in February.
Among the 16 mummies whose arteries or hearts could be identified, nine had calcification clearly seen in the arteries or in the path where the arteries should have been.