Recent discoveries suggested that strokes and heart attacks may have been behind Egyptian deaths millenia before current heart disease trends.
Scientists led by Dr. Greg Thomas announced they had detected the first known case of clogged arteries, or atherosclerosis, in the mummy of an Egyptian princess who lived 3,500 years ago.
According to National Public Radio, these findings hinted that scientists may not understand heart disease to the extent that they think they do.
"Atherosclerosis is widespread among modern day humans and, despite differences in ancient and modern lifestyles," Thomas told The Daily Mail, "we found that it was rather common in ancient Egyptians of high socioeconomic status living more than three millenia ago."
The Daily Mail confirmed that the team performed computerized tomography (CT) scans on 52 Egyptian mummies in order to determine if they had atherosclerosis.
One of the mummies the team scanned was Lady Rai, a princess in her 40s, according to NPR. The team believes she ate fresh food and did not lead a sedentary lifestyle. "That she would have atherosclerosis," Thomas said, "I think we're missing a risk factor. Right now we know that high blood pressure, smoking, cholesterol, inactivity and other things cause atherosclerosis, but I think that we're less complete than we think."
The subjects the team studied belonged to the upper class since working people were not mummified. Thomas told NPR the inbreeding of Egypt's royal families had little to do with the incidence of heart disease.
University of Cairo's Adel Allam, the co-author of the study, warned not to discard modern research. "From what we can tell from this study, humans are predisposed to atherosclerosis," Allam said. "So it behooves us to take the proper measures necessary to delay it as long as we can."
Thomas agreed with Allam. "Our findings suggest that we may have to look beyond modern risk factors to fully understand the disease," Thomas said.