Your primary doctors at The Medical Group of South Florida prefer to focus on prevention when it comes to heart disease, and thus would like to draw your attention to a remarkable new study.
Heart disease, the number one killer in America today, is simply unknown to at least one group of people. A primitive Amazon tribe known as the Tsimane have the lowest risk for heart disease of any group of people ever studied.
Researchers this month presented a paper at the American College of Cardiology, simultaneously published in the journal Lancet, detailing the fascinating findings. Nine out of ten of the Tsimane people of Bolivia have no arterial plaque, resulting in the youngest-looking arteries of any population ever recorded. Researchers who have studied 3,500-year-old mummies have found evidence of heart disease even in those specimens, but not in the Tsimane.
When researchers arranged for 700 members of the Tsimane tribe to travel to Bolivia for CT scans, they found that hardened arteries are five times less common among the Tsimane than adults in the United States. They also have lower heart rates, blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels compared to the rest of the world.
What accounts for this? Researchers attribute it to the tribe’s primitive way of life. The Tsimane people of Bolivia lead an active life of subsistence farming and foraging for food in the Amazon rainforest, said study author Dr. Gregory Thomas. He is medical director of the Memorial Care Heart & Vascular Institute at Long Beach Memorial, in California.
“We found that based on their lifestyle, 85 percent of this population can live their whole life without any heart artery atherosclerosis [hardening],” Thomas recently told CBS News. “They basically have the physiology of a 20-year-old.”
The Tsimane men hunt and fish during the day, while the women tend the farms and children. Researchers estimate the men are physically active between six and seven hours a day and tend to average 17,000 steps a day; the women are active from four to six hours a day, averaging 16,000 steps. Their diet includes only what they can grow or catch, and is therefore extremely fresh and low in fat, consisting mainly of non-processed carbohydrates (rice, corn, nuts, fruits) and wild game and fish.
Thomas added that the findings also cast doubt on the recent theory of inflammation as a cause of hardened arteries, because the tribe is subject to life-long battles with such parasites as hookworm, roundworm, and giardia, leading to almost continual infection-induced inflammation throughout their lives.
In light of this study, your physicians at The Medical Group of South Florida would like to reiterate the importance of following recommended guidelines for optimal heart health: exercise vigorously at least 30 minutes daily; eat fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, and lean meat; don’t smoke; get seven-to-eight hours’ sleep a night; and reduce stress to the maximum extent possible.
You needn’t go as far as the Tsimane to lead a healthier life, nor would you want to. But taking a page from their exercise and dietary routine would be worth considering.