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Hardening of the Arteries (cont.)

Hardening of the Arteries Causes

The exact cause of arteriosclerosis is not known; however, risk factors for the development and progression of arteriosclerosis have been identified. The risk factors can be divided into factors that can be changed and those that cannot.

Risk factors that can be changed include the following:

  • High blood pressure
  • High blood cholesterol levels, especially low-density lipoprotein cholesterol or LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol)
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Lack of exercise
  • Western diet, with excessive saturated fat in meat, dairy products, eggs, and fast foods (the McDonald's Syndrome) with inadequate fruits, vegetables, and fish

Risk factors that cannot be changed include the following:

  • Advancing age
  • Being male (Women are at lower risk only until menopause.)
  • Having a close relative who has had heart disease or stroke at a relatively young age (bad genes, especially with familial hypercholesterolemia [increased cholesterol levels]).
  • Race: African Americans have excessive and early degree of high blood pressure, leading to premature stroke, heart attack, congestive heart failure, and death.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/4/2014
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Atherosclerosis »

Atherosclerosis is a disease of large and medium-sized muscular arteries and is characterized by endothelial dysfunction, vascular inflammation, and the buildup of lipids, cholesterol, calcium, and cellular debris within the intima of the vessel wall.

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