Atherosclerosis Risk Factors
The more atherosclerosis risk factors you have, the greater your risk for the disease. Some risk factors, such as a family history of early heart disease, cannot be controlled, but most can be managed or treated. Examples of risk factors for atherosclerosis you have control over include having high cholesterol, being overweight or obese, cigarette smoking, and a lack of physical activity.
Risk factors are conditions or behaviors that increase your chances of getting a certain disease. For atherosclerosis, the risk factors happen to be the same as for heart disease.
Just like risk factors for heart disease, some atherosclerosis risk factors can be treated or controlled and some cannot. Also, the more risk factors you have, the greater your risk of developing atherosclerosis. That's because risk factors tend to "gang up" and worsen each other's effects. Finally, the higher your level of each risk factor, the greater your risk of developing atherosclerosis.
Risk factors for atherosclerosis include:
- Age (risk increases with age)
- Having close relatives with heart disease at younger ages
- High cholesterol levels, also called hypercholesterolemia
- High blood pressure, also called hypertension
- Being overweight or obese
- Lack of physical activity (see Heart Disease and Exercise)
- Cigarette smoking (see Smoking and Heart Disease).