Atherosclerosis - Risk Factors
Risk Factors of Atherosclerosis
Atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, is characterized by the collection of fat inside arteries. These are mainly cholesterol deposits, a process that begins practically at birth. Depending on the risk factors, some of which can be significantly influenced and controlled, atherosclerosis can develop at an early age or in the elderly where the phenomenon is somewhat natural. Atherosclerosis is the cause of a number of diseases. Risk factors can be categorized as those that cannot be controlled or influenced, and those that can.
Uncontrollable Risk factors of Atherosclerosis
Uncontrollable risk factors include age, sex and genetic predisposition. Atherosclerosis is a process that affects every individual practically from birth. Cholesterol levels in the blood increase with age and with this, more cholesterol collects in the arteries. Therefore illnesses caused by atherosclerosis typically affect older individuals. Gender can also be considered a risk factor for atherosclerosis, as middle aged men are more often affected than middle aged women. This is due to the protective effect of estrogen, a female sex hormone. This difference is compensated in women after menopause when estrogen levels decrease. Genetic predisposition also contributes to a more rapid progression of atherosclerosis.
Controllable Risk Factors of Atherosclerosis
Controllable, or influential, risk factors of atherosclerosis are those that can be influenced by a healthy lifestyle. The main factor influenced by lifestyle is lipid levels in the blood, primarily cholesterol. If this level is high, fat begins to collect on arterial walls. There are a number of types of cholesterol, but the most important are LDL and HDL. These are particles that function as cholesterol carriers in the body. LDL carries cholesterol from the liver to tissues that need it, including blood vessels. HDL functions as a carrier in the opposite direction. This means that a balance between HDL and LDL is important in order to maintain an appropriate level of cholesterol in the blood. However, a congenital illness does exist where lipid levels are high, but cannot be significantly influenced with a healthy lifestyle and therefore need to be treated with medications. Another risk factor that can be influenced is high blood pressure. High blood pressure accelerates and pushes fat into the walls of the artery. Diabetes is also a disease that can accompany high lipid levels in the blood. A high risk for atherosclerosis is cigarette smoking, where it has be proven that smokers are more likely to suffer from diseased arteries of the lower limbs, die of a heart attack and are more at risk of developing cancer.
Illnesses caused by atherosclerosis
As mentioned above, atherosclerosis is the cause of a number of various diseases. The problem lies in the fact that the gradual deposition of fat develops into atherosclerotic plaque on the arterial walls, which narrows that blood vessel and limits blood flow in the affected artery. Plaques can crack and easily allow a blood clot to form, blocking the vessel completely. Atherosclerosis can therefore cause angina pectoris, kidney disease or an aortic aneurysm. This shows how dangerous the condition is and how important is to prevent its progression.