Certain traits, conditions, or habits may raise your risk for carotid artery disease. The more risk factors you have, the more likely you are to get the disease.
The major risk factors for carotid artery disease, listed below, also are the major risk factors for coronary artery disease (CAD) and heart disease:
- Unhealthy blood cholesterol levels. This includes high LDL cholesterol (sometimes called bad cholesterol) and low HDL cholesterol (sometimes called good cholesterol)
- High blood pressure
- Older age. As you get older, your risk for carotid artery disease goes up. About 1 percent of adults aged 50 to 59 have major plaque buildup in the carotid arteries. In contrast, 10 percent of adults aged 80 to 89 have this problem.Before age 75, the risk is greater in men than women. However, after age 75, the risk is higher in women.
- Insulin resistance. This condition occurs when the body can't use its own insulin properly. Insulin is a hormone that helps move blood sugar into cells where it's used. Insulin resistance may lead to diabetes.
- Overweight or obesity. The most useful measure of overweight and obesity is the body mass index (BMI). BMI measures your weight in relation to your height and gives an estimate of your total body fat. A BMI between 25 and 29 is considered overweight. A BMI of 30 or more is considered obese. You can check your BMI using the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute's online BMI calculator, or your doctor can check your BMI.
- Metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is the name for a group of risk factors that raise your risk for stroke and other health problems, such as diabetes and heart disease.
- Lack of physical activity. Lack of activity can worsen other risk factors for carotid artery disease.
- Family history of atherosclerosis