Far from being solely a modern-day killer, furred arteries have been affecting human health for at least 3,000 years, new research has found.

Ancient African skeletons have been discovered with atherosclerosis, a thickening of the artery wall due to fatty build-up and a major factor in cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death today.

Doctors blame our modern lifestyle, with smoking, obesity and hypertension commonly the cause.

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But the condition was also prevalent 3000 years ago among the simple farming communities who worked the land by the Nile in what is now Sudan.

Last month Michaela Binder, a Durham University PhD bioarchaeologist, revealed evidence of metastatic cancer in a skeleton in the area dating back to 1200 BC. Now she has reported three male and two female skeletons buried in the same group at Amara West, 466 miles (750km) north of Khartoum, that show evidence of furred arteries.

Among the bones preserved in the sands, she found tiny calcified plaque which would once have lined the arteries, constricting blood flow and possibly causing stroke or thrombosis.

The study is published in the International Journal of Palaeopathology, and forms part of a British Museum archaeological project.