In a recently published study, an indigenous Bolivian population known as the Tsimane has been found to have the ‘healthiest hearts.’
The Tsimane’s lifestyles resemble the lifestyle of the human civilization from thousands of years ago. Their diets consist of wild game, freshwater fish, harvests (rice, maize, roots), and foraged fruits and nuts. This population thrives on hunting, gathering, fishing, and farming in the Amazon rainforest. Consequently, the Tsimane are extremely physically active.
Research published by Lancet, a health journal, conducted a cross-sectional study of the Tsimane people who were forty years or older. The researchers assessed their hearts for coronary atherosclerosis (the hardening of the arteries) and compared these results to the hearts of 6,814 participants from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis.
Using the participants’ coronary artery calcium (CAC) score, scientists investigated whether the Tsimane people had healthier hearts. Out of the 705 Tsimane, 85% had no CAC, 13% had CAC scores of 1-100, and 3% had CAC scores higher than 100 (the higher the CAC score, the higher the risk of heart attack), compared to 80% of Americans who have some level of CAC.
Based on their findings, researchers have concluded that the Tsimane “have the lowest reported levels of coronary artery disease of any population recorded to date.” These scientists have also stated that it is reasonable to suggest that, “coronary atherosclerosis can be avoided in most people by achieving a lifetime with very low DL, low blood pressure, low glucose, normal body-mass index, no smoking, and plenty of physical activity.”
Image credit: Neil Palmer (CIAT)
Professor Gurven, a lead researcher on this study, stated, “I would say we need a more holistic approach to exercise.” In addition, Dr. Thomas, a co-author, suggested that “we need to be exercising much more than we do” and that perhaps it is the community’s social life and positive outlook that has made their hearts so healthy.
Ultimately, from this very unique study, as put by Professor Sattar from University of Glasgow, “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 blood vessels.”
Source: Kaplan H, Thompson RC, Trumble BC. Coronary atherosclerosis in indigenous South American Tsimane: a cross-sectional cohort study.