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The Tsimane people in the forests of Bolivia have the healthiest arteries found anywhere in the world, a new study published in The Lancet journal claims.
The Tsimane, a forager-horticulturalist population indigenous to the Bolivian Amazon, have the lowest reported levels of vascular ageing for any population studied, with rates of coronary atherosclerosis five times lower than in the US, researchers said.
In the study, researchers visited 85 Tsimane villages between 2014 and 2015 and took CT scans of the hearts of about 700 adults between the ages of 40 and 94 to measure the extent of the hardening of the coronary arteries among other metrics.
Based on the CT scans, 85 per cent of the Tsimane people had no risk of heart disease, 13 per cent had low risk and only three per cent had moderate or high risk.
The findings continued into old age, where nearly two-thirds of those over 75 years old had almost no risk of heart disease and only eight per cent had moderate or high risk.
"These findings are very significant," said Randall Thompson, from Saint Luke's Mid America Heart Institute, who presented the results of the study at American College of Cardiology (ACC) here.
"Put another way, the arteries of the Tsimane are 25-30 years younger than the arteries of sedentary urbanites. The data also show that the Tsimane arteries are aging at a much slower rate," said Thompson.
Research suggests that the loss of subsistence diets and lifestyles in contemporary society could join age, smoking, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, physical inactivity, obesity and diabetes as a risk factor for heart disease.
In the Tsimane population, heart rate, blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood glucose were also low, possibly as a result of their lifestyle.
The Tsimane spend only 10 per cent of their daytime being inactive, instead participating in hunting, gathering, fishing and farming. Their diet is also very low in fat and consists largely of non-processed carbohydrates.
"In cities, we can drive to a fast food restaurant and pick up 2,000 calories without getting out of our car," said co-author Ben Trumble.
"For the vast majority of human existence we would have needed to hunt or fish to obtain meat - sedentary urban life is a completely novel human environment, and this study helps show that heart disease may be a side effect of our new lifestyle and environment," said Trumble.
Moving forward, the researchers encourage incorporating Tsimane-inspired lifestyle choices where possible.
"This study shows that prevention really works," said researcher Gregory S Thomas.
"Most of the Tsimane are able to live their entire life without developing any coronary atherosclerosis. This has never been seen in any prior research.
"While difficult to achieve in the industrialized world, we can adopt some aspects of their lifestyle to forestall a condition we thought would eventually affect almost all of us," he said.