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What are the Different Atherosclerosis Risk Factors?

By M.R. Anglin
Updated May 17, 2024
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Atherosclerosis is a condition in which plaque builds up on artery walls, which can cause arteries to harden and sometimes narrow. This condition can lead to heart attack, stroke, or other problems. Atherosclerosis has several risk factors. Some atherosclerosis risk factors are age, cholesterol, a lack of activity, and being overweight or obese. Family history, diabetes, and smoking are also risk factors.

High cholesterol is one of the various atherosclerosis risk factors. If a person’s low density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL) is over 160 mg/dL (4.144 mmol/l) or if his overall cholesterol level is over 200 mg/dL (5.18 mmol/l) he could be at risk. Similarly, high blood pressure can also contribute to atherosclerosis. A person with a blood pressure of 140/90 mmHg is often seen as being at risk. For a person with a kidney disease, that number is reduced to 130/80 mmHg.

If a person does not get enough exercise, he may gain weight. Inadequate exercise and being overweight or obese are two more atherosclerosis risk factors. The term “overweight” denotes a condition where a person carries too much weight due to muscle, bones, water, or fat, and “obese” denotes excess weight because of fat. In order to help reduce atherosclerosis risk, a person only has to exercise about 30 minutes most days of the week. Similarly, if a person were to lose weight, his risk would likely decline.

Smoking is another of the atherosclerosis risk factors. A person who smokes cigarettes drastically increases his risk. Second-hand smoke and smoking cigars or pipes can also increase a person’s risk. Other effects of smoking include increased blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Smoking may also cause damage to blood vessels and can cause them to constrict.

Another of the atherosclerosis risk factors is family history. If a man in a person’s family, such as his brother or father, had heart disease before turning 55, that person could be at risk of atherosclerosis. Similarly if his mother or sister has been diagnosed before she turned 65, he may also be at risk. Age is another of the atherosclerosis risk factors. Men 45 and over and women 55 and over are often seen as being at an increased risk of developing this condition.

Other atherosclerosis risk factors include having diabetes. Both type I and type II diabetes can increase a person’s risk for the condition. A high amount of C-reactive proteins (CRP) present in the blood may also indicate risk. Greater levels of C-reactive proteins are present in the body when inflammation is present. It is thought that inflammation caused by damage to the interior artery walls may encourage plaque to build up.

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