Atherosclerosis is the hardening and narrowing of the arteries, which leads to blockages in your arteries. Atherosclerosis is the number one cause of strokes, heart attacks and other forms of cardiovascular disease, the number one killer in America. It can also cause kidney and eye problems. This article will describe the common causes of Atherosclerosis. It is not meant to constitute, or replace, medical advice.
High blood pressure, smoking, and high cholesterol are the number one causes of Atherosclerosis. Any one of these can damage the endothelium, the lining of your arteries. When the lining is damaged, fat, cholesterol, and other substances that flow through the arteries begin to build up. This is called plaque. The buildup of plaque causes your arteries to harden, narrow, or become blocked. If you have all three of these risk factors, you are eight times more likely to develop Atherosclerosis.
There are nine risk factors that can contribute to Atherosclerosis. Besides smoking, high cholesterol and high blood pressure (see above), they are:
• Diabetes – diabetes increases inflammation and slows your blood flow, two conditions which accelerate Atherosclerosis.
• Abdominal obesity – the likelihood of Atherosclerosis has been shown to increase with both waist circumference and waist-to-hip ratio.
• Stress – stress can raise your blood pressure and your cholesterol, two of the major causes of Atherosclerosis..
• Not eating fruits and vegetables – antioxidants in fruits and vegetables help prevent the buildup of cholesterol in your arteries.
• Excess alcohol intake – more than one drink per day for women or two drinks per day for men has been shown to increase your risk of Atherosclerosis
• Not exercising regularly – exercise can lower your bad cholesterol and raise your good cholesterol, helping to keep your arteries healthy. It can also help manage other Atherosclerosis risk factors, such as high blood pressure, obesity, and stress.
The good news is that all of these Atherosclerosis risk factors can be controlled by you! (Risk factors that can’t be controlled are age and hereditary.) Manage your diabetes and stress, control your weight, quit smoking, eat more fruits and vegetables and start exercising. These may seem like daunting tasks, but take each risk factor at a time and do your best to manage it. (For example, try eating one piece of fruit every day and taking a ten minute walk. Build on that every few weeks.) Manage your health and cut your risk of heart attacks and stroke – it will be well worth it. Please discuss your concerns and options with your doctor, of course.