Did Heart Disease Exist in Ancient Times?

Heart disease is a leading cause of death worldwide, but did it exist in ancient times? This is a question that has intrigued many researchers and historians for years. The answer is not straightforward, as there are several factors to consider.

What is heart disease?

Before we delve into the history of heart disease, it’s essential to understand what it is. Heart disease refers to various conditions that affect the heart’s function and structure. Some common types of heart disease include coronary artery disease, arrhythmia, heart failure, and congenital heart defects.

The history of heart disease

The first recorded case of heart disease dates back to ancient Egypt around 1500 BCE. The Edwin Smith Papyrus, an ancient Egyptian medical text, describes a condition that closely resembles angina pectoris (chest pain). Other ancient civilizations such as Greece and Rome also documented cases of chest pain and shortness of breath.

However, it wasn’t until the 17th century that physicians began to recognize the link between lifestyle habits and heart disease. In 1628, William Harvey published his groundbreaking work on the circulation of blood in the human body. This led to further research on how diet and exercise can affect heart health.

Did heart disease exist in prehistoric times?

It’s challenging to determine whether heart disease existed in prehistoric times as there are no written records or medical findings from that era. However, some research suggests that our ancient ancestors may have been less prone to heart disease due to their lifestyle.

During the Paleolithic era (around 2.5 million years ago), our ancestors were hunter-gatherers who consumed a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and healthy fats. They also engaged in regular physical activity such as hunting and gathering food.

It wasn’t until the agricultural revolution (around 10,000 years ago) that humans began consuming more grains, dairy, and processed foods. This change in diet, along with a sedentary lifestyle, may have contributed to the rise of heart disease over time.


In conclusion, while heart disease may have existed in ancient times, it wasn’t until modern times that physicians began to understand the link between lifestyle habits and heart health. Our ancestors may have been less prone to heart disease due to their healthy diet and active lifestyle.

However, with the rise of processed foods and sedentary lifestyles, heart disease has become a significant health concern worldwide. It’s essential to adopt healthy habits such as regular exercise and a balanced diet to prevent heart disease.