Amazon group has world's healthiest arteries, say scientists

Tsimane house

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. He is medical director of the Memorial Care Heart & Vascular Institute at Long Beach Memorial, in California. Scientists tested the coronary artery calcium (CAC) score of 705 Tsimane, a tribe located in the Bolivian rainforest.

"The Tsimane indigenous South Americans have the lowest prevalence of coronary atherosclerosis of any population yet studied", says Hillard Kaplan, at the University of New Mexico. "They basically have the physiology of a 20-year-old".

Yes, carbs have been demonised by fad diets for years and yet this group of incredibly heart healthy people primarily subsists on them. Because of the study's nature, though, there's no telling the impact each individual lifestyle choice has on a Tsimane's heart health, the authors said. How they manage to have such healthy hearts basically comes down to naturally doing what doctors generally recommend.

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

"If you think of the calcium plaque as a reasonable measure of arterial age, their arteries are 28 to 30 years younger than ours".

Scientists who examined hundreds of men and women from the group found that nearly nine out of 10 had clear arteries showing no risk of heart disease. Only eight percent of the people examined were at a moderate to high risk level.

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.

While it is impossible to mimic the exact lifestyle of the Tsimane, their healthy habits could be transferred and adapted to modern life, thus naturally reducing heart disease risks.

Similar scans of almost 7,000 Americans in a previous study showed that only 14% had no risk of heart disease.

In its report, BBC News broke down the components of the average Tsimane's diet, comparing it to the average Western diet.

Due to their way of living as subsistence farmers and hunters, men of the tribe are physically active between six and seven hours a day averaging 17,000 steps daily. The women are physically active 4 to 6 hours a day, and average about 16,000 steps.

"Simply put, eating a healthy diet very low in saturated fat and full of unprocessed products, not smoking and being active life long, is associated with the lowest risk of having furring up of blood vessels".

The Tsimane's diet is low in meat and fats and high in foods such as rice, plantains, wild game and fish.

The Tsimane didn't seem to be uniquely impervious to heart disease due to their genetics. What is the secret of the Tsimane people? So does that mean we should give these unusual culinary choices a try, especially since the United States and several parts of Europe are notorious for having high heart disease rates, with heart events often a leading cause of death per country?

"The findings from this study of the Tsimane people clearly shows us that preventing coronary disease is theoretically completely within our own control", says Thompson.

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