Want to avoid heart attacks and live a lot longer?
You can live like a group of Bolivians surviving with an ancient life style, hunting and growing their own foods. And that means no smoking and staying physically active.
The Tsimane people — an indigenous population of lowland Bolivia who live off the land and grow what they need to survive — have the lowest reported levels of vascular aging for any population.
Their hardening of the arteries is five times less common than in the United States, according to a study published Friday by a Long Beach-based researcher.
If a people could live an ancient lifestyle, growing or hunting their own food for their families, and be active much of the day, researchers hypothesized that they might not develop blockages of their heart arteries, a condition that plagues much of industrialized society, said Dr. Gregory S. Thomas, medical director of Long Beach Memorial Medical Center.
Following extensive blood tests, a representative sample of 705 Tsimane adults took part in the study by traveling for several days out of the rain forest to undergo noncontrast CT scanning to look for coronary blockages, Thomas said.
Remarkably, 85 percent of Tsimane adults had no calcium, demonstrating almost no risk of heart attack. Of the remainder, 13 percent had a mild degree of calcium with a score of 1-100. Only 3 percent had a severe degree of calcium, a score over 400. This represents one-tenth the amount of calcium seen in the arteries of U.S. men and women.
For a middle-aged American man, the chance of having calcium in his heart arteries is about equal to his age, while American women trail 10 years behind, according to the study published in The Lancet and presented at the American College of Cardiology.
Although the Tsimane lifestyle is very different from contemporary society, certain transferable elements could help to reduce the risk of heart disease.
“This study shows prevention really works,” Thomas said. “Most Tsimane live their entire life without developing any coronary atherosclerosis — something never seen in any prior research.”
“They rarely smoke and are physically active much of the day,” Thomas said of the Tsimane. “While spending most of the day hunting, fishing and farming is difficult in an industrialized world, Tsimane teach us we can do much better at lowering our risk of heart disease.
“They offer hope that new and available medications, in addition to healthier lifestyles, may help allow us to keep our arteries healthy throughout our lives.”
In addition to the Bolivian study, Thomas is principal investigator of the Horus research team studying CT scans of mummies in ancient Egypt and globally.
The team found that because atherosclerosis was common in arteries of humans who lived thousands of years ago, it was not just a product of modern lifestyle.
— City News Service
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