Atherosclerosis and other cardiovascular problems are affecting millions of people around the world, and can have fatal consequences on our health. The main cause of the deadly atherosclerosis is an unhealthy lifestyle and poor diet. The common western diet is pretty rich in fat, sodium, sugar and other unhealthy ingredients which are damaging our arteries and our heart as well. However, this only goes for the Western world – there are populations around the globe who have no idea what atherosclerosis is.
The Tsimane tribe from the Bolivian Amazon is the population with the lowest rate of heart attack and atherosclerosis cases. These people have the healthiest arteries in the world, and it’s all because of their diet and lifestyle. These people don’t smoke and are always physically active, which contributes to their healthy arteries. This was all concluded after a recent study which examined the Tsimane people and was later presented at the American College of Cardiology conference.
“Our study clearly shows that the Tsimane people have the lowers prevalence of cardiovascular problems in the world,” Dr. Hillard Kaplan, one of the co-authors of the study said. “These people eat a diet rich in fiber and carbs and low in saturated fats, which definitely contributes towards their nearly perfect cardiovascular health. They don’t smoke and are very physically active, which prevents the hardening of their arteries and cardiovascular problems such as atherosclerosis as well,” Dr. Kaplan said.
And, although the Tsimane people live thousands of miles away from the modern world, some of their lifestyle elements can be transferred to the modern society. While most of us lead a sedentary lifestyle stuck in front of our PC or TV, the Tsimane people spend only 10% of their time inactively. They hunt, fish and farm, with men from the tribe being active for 6-7 hours a day, and women active for 4-5 hours. The main source of nutrients in their diet are carbs and fiber. These people eat rice, manioc, corn, plantain, fruits and nuts every day, and they get most of their protein through animal meat. As we already mentioned, their diet contains almost no saturated fats, and no trans-fats at all. Smoking is rare in the tribe.
The study examined the cardiovascular health of 85 tribe members in 2014 and 2015. The subjects’ risk of heart disease was measured by a CT scan. The scientists also measured the hardening of their arteries, the age, weight, blood pressure, heart rate, blood glucose, cholesterol levels and inflammation in the blood vessels as well. According to the CT scans, 9 out of 10 Tsimane people had absolutely no risk of heart disease. 13% were at low risk and only 3% had either high or moderate risk of heart disease. Two-thirds of the people in the study over 75 had almost no risk of cardiovascular problems, and only 8% of the tribe members aged over 75 had a moderate or high risk. These results are the lowest reported levels of vascular aging around the world.
In comparison, an American study showed that only 14% of the participants have no risk of heart disease, while more than 50% were at a moderate or high risk of cardiovascular problems. The Tsimane people also had lower heart rate, cholesterol levels and blood pressure than the global average, and this occurred even after scientists discovered that more than half of the Tsimane tribe members had high levels of inflammation. According to the leaders of the study, this is due to some part of their healthy lifestyle, although they couldn’t identify precisely what.
As the scientists say, they expect the rate of cardiovascular problems in the Tsimane tribe to go up significantly in the coming years, as infrastructural changes and the introduction of new roads has given these people better access to sugar and cooking oil. However, for now, deaths from heart attacks are pretty rare in the tribe. As Dr. Kaplan says, we have much to learn from these people. They have managed to avoid cardiovascular diseases and atherosclerosis by leading a healthy lifestyle and eating a natural diet based on fruits and vegetables. This, according to the scientists involved in the study, is the proper way to reduce the prevalence of atherosclerosis in Western society.
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