A new report estimates that an average 80-year-old from a population in South America has the equivalent vascular age of an American only in his or her mid-50s. What can account for such a dramatic difference?
According to the observational study published in The Lancet, the Tsimane people, a horticulturalist-forager society of the Bolivian Amazon, have the healthiest arteries in the world. This group’s incidence of coronary atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) is a remarkable five times lower than what is seen in the U.S.
The researchers concluded that the disappearance of subsistence diets and lifestyles in modern times could be classified as a new risk factor for heart disease. This would be included among the primary factors that increase the likelihood of the malady, namely smoking, age, obesity, physical inactivity, diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
What Elements of the Tsimane Lifestyle are Transferable to the Contemporary Lifestyle?
No one is suggesting that people in industrialized countries abandon their way of living, yet the researchers said it’s possible to reduce heart risk by adopting the below practices of the Tsimane group:
- Following an Active Lifestyle: The contrast in activity levels between the Tsimane group and the West is stark. Westerners are sedentary for half of their waking hours, and researchers have found that sitting for long periods can up your risk of heart disease. Conversely, the Tsimane group is inactive for only 10 percent of the day because the work needed for their subsistence involves many hours of fishing, farming and hunting.
- Consumption of Unprocessed, Largely Carbohydrate Diet: 72 percent of their diet consists of fibrous, unprocessed carbohydrates that include rice, corn, fruits, nuts, plantain and manioc. The remainder of their diet involves 14 percent animal protein and 14 percent fat.
- Abstinence from Smoking: The use of cigarettes is rare in the population.
“Their lifestyle suggests that a diet low in saturated fats and high in non-processed fiber-rich carbohydrates, along with wild game and fish, not smoking and being active throughout the day could help prevent hardening in the arteries of the heart,” said senior author Professor Hillard Kaplan of the University of New Mexico.
Comparison of Tsimane Heart Health with American Heart Health
In the study, researchers went to 85 Tsimane villages and assessed the risk of heart disease of 705 adults between the ages of 40 to 94. They took computerized tomography (CT) scans of the heart, as well as measured inflammation, heart rate, blood pressure, weight, blood glucose and cholesterol.
The CT scans showed 85 percent had no heart disease risk, 13 percent had low risk and 3 percent had moderate-to-high risk. It was apparent that the group’s healthy arteries continued into old age, as 65 percent of those older than 75 had no likelihood of heart disease and 8 percent had moderate-to-high likelihood.
These results differ markedly from tests measuring the heart health of Americans. In a U.S. study of 6814 adults between the ages of 45 to 84, a CT scan revealed 14 percent had no risk and half had moderate-to-high risk.
Increased levels of inflammation were noted in the Tsimane group, but despite this problem, their blood glucose, cholesterol, heart rate and blood pressure were low. An additional finding was that deaths from heart attacks were very uncommon.
What specifically protects the Tsimane villagers from vascular aging? Due to the study’s limitations, the researchers couldn’t determine which of their lifestyle practices are the most helpful. However, they did surmise the benefit is probably due to lifestyle rather than genetics because of a gradual rise in cholesterol associated with increased access to sugar, cooking oil and other unhealthy items.
“Most of the Tsimane are able to live their entire life without developing any coronary atherosclerosis,” said senior cardiology author Dr. Gregory S. Thomas of Long Beach Memorial Medical Centre. “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 potentially forestall a condition we thought would eventually effect almost all of us.”
Mary West is a natural health enthusiast, as she believes this area can profoundly enhance wellness. She is the creator of a natural healing website where she focuses on solutions to health problems that work without side effects. You can visit her site and learn more at http://www.alternativemedicinetruth.com. Ms. West is also the author of Fight Cancer Through Powerful Natural Strategies.