The Tsimane people, who live on a tributary of the Amazon River in Bolivia, have the healthiest hearts in the world, researchers reported. This is attributed to a diet that consists mostly of starch, and regular physical activity.
They walk, ride bikes or canoes when they want to get places, and their staples are rice, plantains and corn that they grow themselves. They hunt for their meat when they want to, and they don’t watch televisions or engage in social media, the study adds. Because of this lifestyle, an 80-year-old Tsimane has the same heart health as the average 50-year-old American, NBC News reports.
The researchers wrote,
The Tsimane, a forager-horticulturalist population of the Bolivian Amazon with few coronary artery disease risk factors, have the lowest reported levels of coronary artery disease of any population recorded to date.
The team will be presenting their findings to a meeting of the American College of Cardiology.
Ben Trumble of Arizona State University said that it’s difficult to find a Tsimane who shows clogged arteries. Gregory Thomas of Long Long Beach Memorial Medical Center added, “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.”
The research team studied over 700 Tsimane volunteers, scanning their arteries and testing their blood cholesterol and glucose levels. They specifically looked for calcium in the blood vessels, which signals that there is artery fat build-up. These can cause heart attacks and strokes.
Around 85% of the participants had no evidence of calcification in their arteries, and those who did showed very little.
The team said, “Tsimane men had lower coronary artery calcification scores than Japanese women, a population previously regarded as having the lowest coronary artery calcification scores reported for any ethnicity.”
The researchers now want to start examining each factor that gives the Tsimane such good heart health to see if people in the industrialized world can mimic it to lower their heart disease risks.
“I don’t think there is a silver bullet like, oh just switch your diet to x and you won’t get heart disease,” Trumble said. It’s a combination of factors, he said.
The team is working with another research group that has been studying the Tsimane on and off since 2002. There are around 16,000 Tsimane, though they are not exactly a tribe, Trumble said.
The study was published in The Lancet.