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Risk Factors for Atherosclerosis
23 Jan. 2016

atherosclerosisAtherosclerosis is a condition characterized by the accumulation of atherosclerotic plaques in the inner walls of the arteries. Such plaques narrow the lumen of the arteries and thus prevent blood flow and oxygen supply to the body tissues. Atherosclerosis can affect the arteries anywhere in the body, but it is most dangerous when it affects the coronary arteries and those arteries that feed the brain. Therefore, it is vitally important to know the risk factors for this disease and do everything possible to reduce the chances of developing it.

Risk factors for atherosclerosis are divided into two main groups – modifiable (those that can be changed) and non-modifiable ones. The first group includes:

Smoking. It increases the risk for many cardiovascular diseases including atherosclerosis. The components of tobacco smoke have negative impact on the blood vessels. Long-term smoking increases the chances of developing arterial hypertension, ischemic heart disease and hyperlipidemia.
Unhealthy diet. Foods rich in trans and saturated fats, salt and sugar lead to the accumulation of fatty deposits in the artery walls.
Obesity.  Not only does it provoke the progression of atherosclerosis, but it also causes diabetes, hypertension, and other diseases.
High blood pressure. The arteries are created to pump blood at a certain pressure, so if it is too high, their walls become damaged. Thus, if you have hypertension, be sure to take your antihypertensive drugs to control the strain on your arteries.
Sedentary lifestyle. Lack of physical activity worsens other risk factors for atherosclerosis.
High levels of blood cholesterol. Excesses of cholesterol accumulate in the artery walls and promote atherosclerosis. Controlling cholesterol levels through healthy diet, exercise and cholesterol-lowering drugs can decrease the risk of atherosclerosis.

The non-modifiable risk factors include:
man with atherosclerosis

Age. The older you get the higher the risk of atherosclerosis is; it considerably rises after the age of 45-50.
Gender. The risk of having atherosclerosis before the age of 50 is 4 times higher in men than in women, and in men it usually develops 10 years earlier than in women. It’s believed that estrogens protect women from the early onset of this disease.
Family history of cardiovascular diseases. Atherosclerosis develops most often in people whose relatives also suffer from various forms of heart disease. Genetic predisposition is believed to be the main risk factor for a relatively early development of this condition.

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