These 9 Things May Cause Atherosclerosis

Although the exact cause of atherosclerosis remains unknown, there are certain factors that contribute to the development of atherosclerosis. Some of these risk factors can be controlled or prevented, such as: high bad cholesterol levels, high blood pressure (hypertension), smoking habit, diabetes mellitus, obesity, physical inactivity, and alcohol intake. While age and family history of heart disease are risk factors that cannot be controlled.


  1. High cholesterol levels. Plaques on the artery walls are associated with high concentrations of bad cholesterol in the blood. It also means that bad diet also contributes to the development of atherosclerosis.
  2. Smoking. Smoking is a bad habit that can damage the artery walls and increase the risk of blood clotting, restricting the flow of oxygen-rich blood to your body. When the arteries are damaged, plaques begin to build up. Over time, these plaques harden and narrow the arteries.
  3. High blood pressure (hypertension). Another risk factor with the same damaging effect to the artery walls is high blood pressure. However, the arteries have limited capacity in handling blood pressure.
  4. Diabetes mellitus. Insulin stimulates the production of NO (Nitrous Oxide) by the inner lining (endothelium) that helps the blood flowing smoothly through blood vessels and prevents cells from sticking to the walls. People with diabetes may lose this stimulatory effect due to insulin resistance, and increase the tendencies towards plaque formation.
  5. Alcohol intake. Drinking alcohol in an excessive amount can raise your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, which are the risk factors of developing atherosclerosis.
  6. Obesity. Though it does not directly promote atherosclerosis, obesity can lead to major risk factors such as: higher levels of cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
  7. Physical inactivity. Lack of exercise doesn’t directly increase the risk of atherosclerosis, but it may trigger obesity, high cholesterol levels, and high blood pressure.
  8. Age. Atherosclerosis develops gradually and the risk increases as you get older. In men, the risk may increase after age 45, while in women, after age 55.
  9. Family history of heart disease. The risk for atherosclerosis may increase if a father or a brother was diagnosed with heart disease before 55 years of age, or if a mother or a sister was diagnosed with heart disease before 65 years of age.

Even though age and a family history of early heart disease are beyond our control, it doesn’t mean that you have lost your chance to live healthier. Making lifestyle changes and consulting with your doctor to get proper medication or treatment for other risk factors can lessen the genetic influences.


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