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This Indigenous Group in the Bolivian Amazon Has the Healthiest Hearts -- What's Their Secret?

Mar 20, 2017 10:36 AM EDT

A new study revealed that an indigenous group living deep within the Bolivian Amazon has the healthiest hearts on the planet.

The study, published in the journal The Lancet, showed that that people from Tsimane group have the lowest incidence rate of clogged arteries. Additionally, Tsimane group also has healthier hearts than average American.

"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," said Dr. Gregory Thomas of Long Beach Memorial Medical Center and one of the authors of the study, in a report from NBC News.

For the study, the researchers run scans of the arteries of 705 Tsimane volunteers. Additionally, the researchers also tested their blood for cholesterol and glucose. The results of the tests and scans from the Tsimane group were then compared to over 6,000 Americans.

The researchers found that people from the Tsimane group were five times less likely to develop heart disease, compared to an average American. Furthermore, a 50-year-old average American has the same heart and artery health as an 80-year-old Tsimane.

The Tsimane is a group of about 16,000 people. The researchers believe that their lifestyle and diet are responsible for their heart health. The Tsimane group have been living without electricity or running water. They survive by eating starchy foods, such as rice, corn and plantains, which they grew on their own. If they want to eat meat, they must endure tiresome and time-consuming hunts.

They also need to walk, ride a bike or canoe if they want to go to the nearest city. The lifestyle of the Tsimane seems to be responsible for most of their heart health.

However, the introduction of logging roads and motorized canoe may have a negative impact on their heart. The researchers observed that the easier means of transportation made it possible for the Tsimane people to be exposed to more modern foods, such as sugar and oil. Over the past ten years, the researchers measured an increase in the levels of LDL and total cholesterol among the Tsimane people.

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