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Sunday, August 3, 2014

Avoiding heart disease is very doable

Joe Marchilena

If you’ve ever wondered how far back into your family history you’d have to look to find where certain hereditary afflictions began, there may be an answer for you someday.

For right now, it’s just the ancient Egyptians who are doing the talking. ...

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If you’ve ever wondered how far back into your family history you’d have to look to find where certain hereditary afflictions began, there may be an answer for you someday.

For right now, it’s just the ancient Egyptians who are doing the talking.

A few years back, researchers discovered something unexpected when looking at Egyptian mummies. When a CT scan was done on the remains, they found signs of atherosclerosis, a hardening or narrowing of the arteries. Since then, scans of mummies from other ancient civilizations have revealed similar results.

Atherosclerosis is thought to be caused by a variety of things, including obesity, smoking, diabetes or even just genes.

So how were these ancient people getting a disease that is typically caused by things that have only been introduced in, say, the last few hundred years?

A study published in Global Heart, a journal dedicated to the prevention and control of cardiovascular diseases, showed that open fire pits and poor living conditions could be to blame.

While some of the remains showed that other infections and diseases could have caused the hardening and narrowing of arteries, there were some cases –
particularly among females – in which there was no other explanation.

The study continued that in most of the ancient cultures, the women were the ones doing the cooking and were around the fire pits more often.

Inhaling smoke from the fire pits would be as harmful to one’s health as smoking cigarettes or breathing in low-quality air.

But similar to modern cases of atherosclerosis, it was also likely hereditary in many cases, and none of the instances where it was found would be considered serious in someone today.

“It was really preclinical,” Dr. Greg Thomas, a cardiologist who led the study, said in the report.

“When I see a patient now who has a heart incident, I assure them that this is a problem that’s been with us since before writing, so they shouldn’t blame themselves too much.”

While atherosclerosis may be hereditary in some cases, there are ways to keep it under control – or in that preclinical state.

Watching what you eat and getting the proper amount of exercise can cut down on your chances of having heart disease.

But I think we all know that by now. It’s just a matter of doing it.

Joe Marchilena writes a weekly fitness column for Hampshire Hills Sports & Fitness Club. For more information about the “90 Day Commit to Get Fit” program, call 673-7123 or e-mail hhinfo@hampshirehills.com.