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In those who have lupus, the immune system attacks the body's own tissues, causing a variety of inflammation throughout the body. One problem it can cause is atherosclerosis, which is a hardening of the arteries. Atherosclerosis results from cholesterol and other substances (known collectively as plaque) building up along the linings of the arteries, which are important blood vessels. Eventually, this plaque hardens and restricts the flow of blood to various parts of the body, including the heart and brain. Sometimes the plaque can cause blood to clot, which can lead to complications such as heart attack and stroke.
Lupus is not wholly to blame, however. Research shows that people with lupus are more likely to develop heart disease if they are also overweight, have high blood pressure, and smoke, all of which are risk factors that may cause atherosclerosis.
It is critical for a person with lupus to work with their doctor to keep atherosclerosis in check, especially since heart disease is the number one cause of death in people with lupus.
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