Tribe has world's lowest levels of artery hardening

Posted March 19, 2017

The Tsimane secret to heart health is a potent combination of physical activity and eating unprocessed whole foods.

An indigenous group in the Amazon has the 'world's healthiest arteries, scientists have discovered. He is medical director of the Memorial Care Heart & Vascular Institute at Long Beach Memorial, in California. Atherosclerosis is sometimes referred to as "hardening of the arteries" and is a major risk factor for heart disease.

It's often warned that unhealthy, sedentary lifestyles common in many countries can lead to clogged-up arteries, increasing the risk of heart disease.

Members of the tribe also had low readings for heart rate, blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar.

The researchers estimated that an 80-year old Tsimane had the same "vascular age" as an American in his or her mid-50s, according to the study, published today (March 17) in the journal The Lancet. The Tsimane, who live in the Amazon rainforest area that is in Bolivia, had very good results in the study.

"This study shows prevention really works", Thomas said. How they manage to have such healthy hearts basically comes down to naturally doing what doctors generally recommend. "Most Tsimane live their entire life without developing any coronary atherosclerosis - something never seen in any prior research".

Members of the tribe live in thatched huts in the Bolivian jungle.

CT scans that look for calcium deposits in arterial plaques confirmed what Kaplan's team had suspected - the Tsimane have the youngest-looking arteries of any population recorded to date.

The researchers found that 85 percent of the Tsimane people in the study had nearly no risk of heart disease, and only 3 percent of the people had a moderate or high risk. About 13 percent of those scanned had low risk, and only 3 percent had moderate or high risk.

"There may not be many old Tsimane men with heart disease but that's probably because only the fittest and healthiest Tsimane survive to old age", commented Gavin Sandercock, a cardiology expert from the University of Essex.

Researchers took CT scans of the hearts of 705 adults aged 40-94 in 85 villages in 2014 and 2015 for the study.

Similar scans of almost 7,000 Americans in a previous study showed that only 14 per cent had no risk of heart disease, with half at moderate-to-high risk - a five-fold greater prevalence rate than that seen in the Tsimane population.

Tim Chico, consultant cardiologist and reader in cardiovascular medicine at the University of Sheffield, said it was important "not to romanticise the Tsimane existence".

In an indigenous group of people in South America, researchers are finding the healthiest blood vessels ever studied, thanks in part to a diet that's rich in complex carbs. The women are physically active between four and six hours daily averaging about 16,000 steps per day.

On average, Tsimane women have nine children.

They also noted that the low risk of coronary atherosclerosis in the Tsimane despite there being elevated levels of inflammation in half (51 per cent). Almost three-fourths of what they eat are non-processed carbohydrates, such as rice, plantains, corn, nuts and fruits, and their protein comes from lean wild game and fish.