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Mummified princess had heart disease

Egyptian princess Ahmose-Meryet-Amon, who lived circa 1540 BC, had calcium deposits in her coronary arteries. Egyptian princess Ahmose-Meryet-Amon, who lived circa 1540 BC, had calcium deposits in her coronary arteries. (Dr. Michael Miyamoto/Associated Press)
Associated Press / May 18, 2011

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LONDON — An Egyptian princess who lived more than 3,500 years ago is the earliest known person to have had clogged arteries, dispelling the myth that heart disease is a product of modern society, a new study says.

To determine how common heart disease was in ancient Egypt, scientists performed computer scans on 52 mummies in Cairo and the United States. Among those that still had heart tissue, 44 had chunks of calcium stuck to their arteries, indicating clogging.

“Atherosclerosis clearly existed more than 3,000 years ago,’’ said Adel Allam, a cardiology professor at Al Azhar University in Cairo, who led the study with Gregory Thomas, director of nuclear cardiology education at the University of California in Irvine. “We cannot blame this disease on modern civilization.’’

The research was presented yesterday at a conference on heart imaging in Amsterdam.

Allam and colleagues found that the Egyptian princess Ahmose-Meryet-Amon, who lived in Thebes (now Luxor) between 1540 and 1550 BC, had calcium deposits in two main coronary arteries, making her the oldest mummy found with heart disease.

Allam doubted she would have received much treatment beyond maybe taking special herbs or honey. “If she were my patient today, she would get open heart surgery,’’ he said.

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