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Causes of Atherosclerosis

This page focuses on the causes of atherosclerosis.
For more information on atherosclerosis, please visit our pages on What is Atherosclerosis, Atherosclerosis Symptoms, and Atherosclerosis Reversal.

No one knows the exact causes of atherosclerosis. What has been found so far is that atherosclerosis is a slow, progressive disease that is the result of the build-up of plaques on and in the inner linings of the artery walls. This build-up develops in several stages, and the initial stage may begin as early as childhood. (Click here to see the stages of atherosclerosis).

What researchers have found recently is that, chronic inflammation in the blood vessels is a central factor in the development of atherosclerosis. This chronic inflammation leads to damage of the artery walls. In addition, there are some other factors that can contribute to the damage of the artery walls, such as:
  • High blood pressure
  • High LDL cholesterol (the "bad" cholesterol)
  • An irritant, such as nicotine
  • Certain diseases, such as diabetes
Over time, plaques and other cellular waste products also accumulate at the damaged portions of the arterial walls. They harden, thereby narrowing and blocking the arteries.

Risk Factors of Atherosclerosis

Risk factors for atherosclerosis include:
  • Being male
  • For post-menopausal female, the risk of atherosclerosis is higher
  • High blood pressure
  • High LDL cholesterol or triglycerides (fats in the blood)
  • Diabetes
  • Being overweight
  • Smoking
  • Genetics - People with a family history of aneurysm or early heart disease are more likely to develop atherosclerosis
  • Elevated homocysteine levels (Homocysteine is an amino acid produced by the human body, thought to be a risk factor for heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis, diabetes, and dementia)
  • Lack of exercise
  • Poor diets (high in saturated fat and trans fats)
  • Depression

Related Topics

What is Atherosclerosis
Atherosclerosis Symptoms
Atherosclerosis Reversal

References (
University of Maryland Medical Center (

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