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.
Atherosclerosis Risk Factors: An Introduction
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.
Common Atherosclerosis Risk Factors
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).
Uncontrollable Atherosclerosis Risk Factors
The atherosclerosis risk factors you can do nothing about include:
- Increasing age. The risk of atherosclerosis increases with age. Men ages 45 and older have increased risk, as do women ages 55 and older. It is thought that female hormones help protect women from atherosclerosis before menopause. After menopause, women have atherosclerosis as often as men do.
- Family history. If your father or brother had a heart attack before age 55, or if your mother or sister had one before age 65, you are more likely to get atherosclerosis.