Western societies may well consider themselves to be scientifically advanced compared to many places around the world, but it seems access to modern medicine doesn’t actually translate to having the best health.
The Tsimane people, who live in the Bolivian Amazon, can claim the medal for the best coronary health across the entire globe, with the lowest reported levels of vascular aging for any group.
In fact one 80-year-old subject had the same vascular age as an American in his or her mid fifties.
It was found that 85% of the 705 Tsimane people had no risk of heart disease at all, while only 13% had low risk and the remaining 2% were moderate.
By comparison, a study of Americans found that only 14% had no risk of heart disease and 50% were suffering with moderate or high risk. And coronary atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) is five times less common in the Tsimane, than in the USA.
The forager-horticulturalist people spend an average of six to seven hours a day (90%) being physically active, compared to industrial populations who are sedentary for more than half (54%) of their working hours.
Their diet is largely carb-based (72%) and animal-meat sourced protein constitutes 14% of their diet and comes from animal meats. This is equivalent to about 38 grams of fat a day (with no trans fats).
And smoking was rare in the population.
Professor Hillard Kaplan, University of New Mexico, said: “Their lifestyle suggests that a diet low in saturated fats and high in non-processed fibre-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.”
“The loss of subsistence diets and lifestyles could be classed as a new risk factor for vascular aging and we believe that components of this way of life could benefit contemporary sedentary populations.”
The main risk factors for heart problems in industrial nations are currently age, smoking, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, physical inactivity, obesity and diabetes.