What increases my risk for atherosclerosis?


Many risk factors increase the likelihood of developing atherosclerosis and coronary artery disease (also known as hardening of the arteries). These can include:

  • hypertension (also called high blood pressure)
  • diabetes
  • elevated cholesterol
  • living a sedentary lifestyle
  • smoking
  • stress
  • obesity
  • male gender
  • family history of heart disease
  • getting older
Obviously, you can control or change some of these risk factors (with or without the help of a doctor). Quitting smoking, for example, is an obvious benefit to your health. Some of these risk factors, however, cannot be changed. You cannot prevent yourself from getting older.

Likewise, some of the risk factors on this list can affect other factors on the list. For example, many people can lower their blood pressure if they quit smoking cigarettes. Also, dropping excess pounds can help control blood sugar in diabetics, can help lower blood pressure and can help lower cholesterol.

There is no single cause of atherosclerosis. Plaque accumulates in the arteries over the course of many years. However, certain factors may contribute to the development of atherosclerosis such as smoking and having high blood pressure or high cholesterol.