The arteries of members of an indigenous community in the Bolivian Amazon, dubbed “the world’s healthiest,” have remarkably low rates of coronary atherosclerosis, compared with those of other populations. These arteries recently were found to be exceptionally elastic and to age more gradually, according to a study presented at the 2023 Annual Congress of the American Heart Association in Philadelphia.
The lead researcher, Michael Gurven, PhD, director of the Integrative Anthropological Sciences Unit at the University of California, Santa Barbara, told the Medscape Spanish edition that the study “provides additional evidence that lifestyle modifications can improve arterial health.”
An Ancient Lifestyle
The study focused on the Tsimané or Chimane people, an indigenous community in Bolivia that sustains itself through ancestral practices like slash-and-burn agriculture (mainly involving plantains, rice, sweet cassava, and maize), river fishing, hunting neotropical mammals, and gathering seasonal fruits, honey, and nuts. They are inactive only 10% of their daily time and adhere to a low-fat, low-processed carbohydrate diet.
Over the past decade, numerous studies in this community documented a lower prevalence of arterial hypertension, atrial fibrillation, type 2 diabetes, obesity, smoking, sedentary lifestyle, and more recently, minimal cognitive dysfunction and dementia.
In 2017, Gurven led a cross-sectional study showing that Tsimané individuals over age 40 years had very low coronary artery calcium scores, which are a marker for coronary atherosclerosis. The finding strongly suggests that healthy lifestyle habits genuinely work in cardiovascular prevention. The mechanisms involved and their evolution with age needed further exploration, however.
The new research, led by Gurven’s student Tianyu Cao, delved into arterial elasticity, particularly in the carotid and femoral arteries, as a measure of potential arterial stiffening and atherosclerosis. The study included around 500 adults of both sexes.
Aging and Arterial Elasticity
The findings revealed that Tsimané arteries are less rigid than those in various urban and sedentary populations that have been studied previously. For instance, the elasticity of large and small arteries in 491 Tsimané individuals (average age: 55.3 years) was 57%-86% higher than that observed in adult men and women in the United States in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis.
Similarly, the carotid-femoral pulse wave velocity, a direct indicator of arterial stiffness, was determined in 89 Tsimané individuals (average age: 53.1 years, 54% women). The average value was 6.34 m/s, which is approximately 25% lower than the average for a healthy Brazilian population aged 35-74 years.
Gurven noted that Tsimané arteries remain more elastic for a longer period than in other populations. However, by age 70 years, the arteries also start to harden. “In other words, Tsimané cannot indefinitely delay arterial aging,” he said.
“The minimal and delayed increase in arterial stiffness related to age could contribute to the very low observed levels of coronary atherosclerosis and dementia in the Tsimané,” wrote the researchers.
Pedro Forcada, MD, a cardiologist and professor at the University Austral in Buenos Aires, who was not involved in the study, emphasized the impact of epigenetics on atherosclerosis and accelerated vascular aging. He referred to the SUPERNOVA phenomenon in Europe and Japan, where exceptionally low arterial stiffness characterizes very long-lived individuals.
“This indicates that we must not only understand accelerated vascular aging but also study protective factors. Lifestyle, according to these recent studies, would play a significant role,” he stated.
Gurven and Forcada declared no relevant economic conflicts of interest.
Source link : https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/worlds-healthiest-arteries-found-be-most-elastic-2023a1000wup?src=rss
Publish date : 2023-12-28 12:36:09
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