Preventing atherosclerosis begins with knowing which risk factors you have and then taking action to reduce your risk. Remember, your chance of developing coronary atherosclerosis increases with the number of risk factors you have.
Atherosclerosis risk factors include:
- Age (over the age of 45 for men and 55 for women)
- Having close relatives with heart disease at younger ages (diagnosed before age 55 in a father or brother; diagnosed before age 65 in a mother or sister)
- High cholesterol levels, also known as hypercholesterolemia
- High blood pressure, also known as hypertension (see Effects of High Blood Pressure)
- Diabetes (see Diabetes Complications)
- Being overweight or obese (see BMI Calculator to find your ideal weight)
- Not exercising
- Cigarette smoking.
While the first step in preventing atherosclerosis may be knowing the risk factors for the disease, the next step is actually knowing whether you have any of these risk factors, especially the ones that you can control, such as diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure.
People with diabetes have high blood glucose (often called blood sugar). People with high blood sugar often have no diabetes symptoms, so have your blood sugar checked regularly. Having diabetes raises your chances of getting atherosclerosis. If you have diabetes, your doctor will decide if you need diabetes medicine, such as pills or insulin shots. Your doctor can also help you design a healthy eating and exercise plan.
(Click Diabetes Treatment for more information on treatment options for this condition.)