A primitive tribe in the Amazon rainforest may have the best heart health in the world. Researchers of a new study think that simple living provides them with extraordinary protection against cardiovascular disease.
The Tsimane People
Members of the tribe live in thatched huts in the Bolivian jungle. The Tsimane people thrive on subsistence farming harvesting rice, corn, and plantains from small farm plots and foraging nuts and wild fruits in the Amazon rainforest. They also live an active life hunting monkeys and wild pigs for their meals as well as catching catfish and piranha in the local rivers.
Study researcher Gregory Thomas, from the Memorial Care Heart & Vascular Institute in California, and colleagues learned about this people through anthropologists led by Hillard Kaplan, from the University of New Mexico, who have been studying members of the tribe and rarely observed heart disease in them.
To conduct their study, which was published in The Lancet on March 17, Thomas and colleagues had over 700 Tsimane travel from the Amazon rainforest to Trinidad city in Bolivia, to undergo CT scan.
Healthier Hearts Than The Rest Of The World
The results of the CT scan revealed that hardened arteries are five times less common among members of the Tsimane tribe compared with adults in the United States. Researchers also found that the Tsimane have lower blood pressure, heart rates, and blood sugar level than the rest of the world.
The researchers found that almost nine in every 10 Tsimane had no heart disease risk because of the absence of arterial plaques. About 13 percent of those who were scanned also had low risk while only 3 percent had moderate and high risk.
The risk for cardiovascular problem among the Tsimane is significantly lower when compared to that of Americans. In a study funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, researchers revealed that only 14 percent of people in the United States who had CT scans had no heart disease.
Based on the findings, the researchers said that the Tsimane measured far healthier than other populations in the world which include people from Europe, the United States, and Japan.
"If you think of the calcium plaque as a reasonable measure of arterial age, their arteries are 28 to 30 years younger than ours," said study researcher Randall Thompson, from St. Luke's Mid America Heart Institute. "Obviously the Tsimane are achieving something that we are not."
Reasons Behind Healthy Heart Of Tsimane People
The primitive people's diet may seem unique, but it is their active lifestyle and their overall diet that may help explain why most of them have arteries that were not clogged by cholesterol plaques that raise risk for stroke and heart attack.
Because of 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 between four and six hours daily averaging about 16,000 steps per day.
The Tsimane also consume low-fat diet and fresh food by eating only what they can grow and catch. Almost three-fourth of what they eat are non-processed carbohydrates and their protein come from fish and lean wild game.