Sperling Prostate Center

Mummies Reveal Ancient Heart Disease

At the Sperling Prostate Center, we embrace the saying, “If it’s good for the heart, it’s good for the prostate—and vice versa.” It’s our way of reminding everyone that if you want prostate wellness, follow the principles of healthy diet, exercise, stress management, and right relationships that support total body wellness. I’ve posted numerous blogs focused on getting off the Western diet characterized by red meat, saturated fats, highly processed foods, etc. There is undeniable evidence that such dietary indulgence promotes clogged arteries and heart attacks.

Apparently, the ancient Egyptians (and other cultures) may have had their own versions of Western eating. A new study of adult mummies that were scanned by CT reveals that 37.6% of them had atherosclerosis, or clogged arteries. The research by Thompson, et al. was published in the European Heart Journal. The authors write, “Atherosclerosis is usually thought of as a disease of modern times. However, atherosclerosis has been found in the remains of ancient people, suggesting that the disease has been present in humans in some form for many millennia.”[i]

Seven different cultures

The study team accessed CT scans of mummies housed in several museums. The mummies were from seven diverse ancient cultures and time periods, not all ancient, but some go back more than 2500 years:

  • Egyptian (161)
  • Lowland Peruvian farmer-fishermen (54)
  • Highland Andean Bolivian farmer-herders (31)
  • 19th century Unangan/Aleutian Islander hunter-gatherers (4)
  • 16th century Greenland Inuit hunter-gatherers (4)
  • Ancestral Pueblo people (5)
  • Middle Ages Gobi Desert herders 4)
  • A 19th century African American and a 19th century Indigenous Australian

The aorta or central artery was most often involved, but arteries in other locations (e.g. groin, neck) were also affected by calcium deposits (calcification or hardening) that blocked blood flow. The condition affected male and female individuals equally.

An innate tendency?

The researchers theorize that our species may be prone to “… the existence of an innate human predisposition to atherosclerosis.”[ii] If so, we may each be in the path of a lethal bullet. The authors suggest that superimposing our comparatively slack modern lifestyles onto this inbuilt vulnerability may drive today’s mounting statistics on overall ill health, especially cardiovascular disease. Thus, it falls to each of us to examine the daily choices we make in terms of nutrition, working out, harmonious occupations, etc. We may not be able to reverse what evolution has implanted, but we certainly don’t need to put a heavy foot on the gas pedal of heart disease. Remember: improving cardiac health is good for the prostate.

Ancient prostate cancer?

Prostate cancer itself goes back to time immemorial. Human remains shed light on how far back it goes:

The earliest biochemically confirmed case of [prostate cancer] occurred in present-day Siberia in the seventh century BC as found in mummified remains of an Iron Age Scythian king exhibiting bone lesions compatible with PC bone metastases. Biochemical confirmation was performed by detecting positive antibodies against prostate-specific antigen (PSA) and PSA-bound alpha1- antichymotrypsin. A biochemically unconfirmed case was found as early as 4500?years BC, also in Siberia.[iii]

Did these individuals also have clogged arteries? There’s no way to know. Though mummies were silenced by the Grim Reaper long ago, we are still able to learn lessons from them. Wisdom demands that we open our minds to knowledge, and to the ways by which we can shore up the body’s wellness against whatever vulnerabilities we’ve inherited from remote ancestors. Make informed, heart-healthy lifestyle choices. Your heart (and your prostate) will thank you.

NOTE: This content is solely for purposes of information and does not substitute for diagnostic or medical advice. Talk to your doctor if you are experiencing pelvic pain, or have any other health concerns or questions of a personal medical nature.

[i] Thompson RC, Sutherland ML, Allam AH, Paladin A et al. Atherosclerosis in ancient mummified humans: the global HORUS study. Eur Heart J. 2024 May 28:ehae283.
[ii] Ibid.
[iii] Lehtonen M, Kellokumpu-Lehtinen PL. The past and present of prostate cancer and its treatment and diagnostics: A historical review. SAGE Open Med. 2023 Dec 1;11:20503121231216837.


About Dr. Dan Sperling

Dan Sperling, MD, DABR, is a board certified radiologist who is globally recognized as a leader in multiparametric MRI for the detection and diagnosis of a range of disease conditions. As Medical Director of the Sperling Prostate Center, Sperling Medical Group and Sperling Neurosurgery Associates, he and his team are on the leading edge of significant change in medical practice. He is the co-author of the new patient book Redefining Prostate Cancer, and is a contributing author on over 25 published studies. For more information, contact the Sperling Prostate Center.

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