Cardiovascular Health Similarities Found between Chimpanzees, Humans

A study on chimpanzees, genetically the closest species to humans, found parallels in cardiovascular health between chimpanzees and humans.

When chimpanzees have a diet focused on plants and extensive exercise opportunities, they fall into human "healthy" ranges.

Lab chimpanzees, whose diet and exercise were restricted, displayed conditions that were more like sedentary people, suggesting cardiovascular disease risk, Xinhua reports.

The findings have been published in a special issue of Philosophical Transactions B on "The evolution of the primate aging process".

According to the results reported on UM's website on Monday, researchers from the University of Michigan (UM) and the University of New Mexico collaborated with wildlife veterinarians in Uganda and Congo to analyze cardiovascular profiles of chimpanzees living in African sanctuaries.

These chimpanzees inhabit large rainforest enclosures, eat a fruit and vegetable diet, and typically encounter conditions more comparable to the lifestyle of a wild chimpanzee.

During annual veterinary health check-ups, they assessed blood lipids, body weight and body fat in 75 sanctuary chimpanzees and then compared them with reported laboratory-living chimpanzee results.

In sanctuaries, free-ranging chimpanzees displayed lower body weight and lower lipid levels, both risk factors for human cardiovascular disease. Some of these differences increased with age, meaning that as they grew older, the free-ranging chimpanzees remained safe.

"Our findings support the hypothesis that lifestyle shapes health in chimpanzees, similar to effects in humans, and contribute to an emerging understanding of cardiovascular health in evolutionary context," said Alexandra Rosati, UM assistant professor of psychology and anthropology.

The study also revealed that even as they age, chimpanzees living a naturalistic existence have far lower blood lipid levels, offering a new guide for understanding human health.

"These results show how the high-quality, natural conditions that chimpanzees experience in African sanctuaries fosters their long-term health," Rosati said.

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