Heart Disease Home > Causes of Atherosclerosis
Some of the risk factors for atherosclerosis include being overweight or obese, having high cholesterol, and cigarette smoking. While not technically atherosclerosis causes, these factors can contribute to a person's risk of developing the disease. The specific cause of the disease remains unknown.
Heart disease research doctors and scientists do not know the exact cause or causes of atherosclerosis. Scientists think that the buildup of plaque starts when the lining of the artery is damaged or injured, but they are not sure why and how the artery becomes damaged in the first place.
Scientists are also unsure of when atherosclerosis begins. They do know that it is a slow and complex disease that may start in childhood. They also think that atherosclerosis develops faster as people grow older.
While not atherosclerosis causes, there are a number of factors that can increase a person's chance of developing it. These are known as atherosclerosis risk factors. These risk factors are the same as those for heart disease, and include:
- Age (45 or over for men; 55 or over for women)
- Being male
- High cholesterol, also known as hypercholesterolemia (see Cholesterol and Heart Disease)
- High blood pressure, also known as hypertension (see Effects of High Blood Pressure)
- Diabetes (see Diabetes and Heart Disease)
- Being overweight or obese (see Obesity and Heart Disease or click BMI Calculator to find your ideal weight)
- Not exercising (see Heart Disease and Exercise)
- Cigarette smoking (see Smoking and Heart Disease)
- 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).