Causes of Atherosclerosis
Atherosclerosis does not appear spontaneously, there are some factors and causes leading to this condition:
- Smoking is a provoking factor which causes blood vessel narrowing. It is proven that one cigarette induces a generalized spasm of all vessels lasting for about 40 minutes. Also, nicotine can increase the level of atherogenic cholesterol in blood and intensifies the aggregation (clumping together) of platelets causing vascular spasm and worsening the blood flow in the vessels. This results in the damage of the vascular wall and increased platelets aggregation, thereby triggering the processes of cholesterol penetration into the vessel wall and its accumulation in the form of plaques;
- Carbohydrate metabolism disorders. Diabetes affects large and small vessels, and as a result, atherosclerosis develops in the affected vessels. Often, other latent forms of carbohydrate metabolism disorder is diagnosed in patients with atherosclerosis, including impaired glucose uptake by tissues and organs. It often progresses imperceptibly, but it is a very serious risk factor;
- Increased blood cholesterol and other lipid storage disorders. Cholesterol is deposited in the blood vessel walls (those parts that were somehow damaged) and becomes the basis for the formation of atherosclerotic plaques;
- Arterial hypertension. Increased blood pressure is one of the main risk factors. The blood flow velocity and turbulence as well as the amount of the destroyed platelets are increased in patients with hypertension. Moreover, hypertension worsens the progression of not only atherosclerosis but also other conditions caused by atherosclerosis;
- Obesity. It is a very powerful factor which has a negative influence on the course of atherosclerosis as well as of other conditions. Thus, obesity contributes to the increased load on the heart, disturbs fat and carbohydrate metabolism, and all this results in the increased blood atherogenicity as well as decreases tolerance to hypoxia (lack of oxygen) and physical activity;
- Unhealthy diet. A tendency to overeating, preference of the food rich in animal fats and salt lead to the increased level of cholesterol in blood. In its turn cholesterol gets deposited in the vessel walls and provokes atherosclerosis;
- Stress causes vasoconstriction (narrowing of the arteries);
- Insufficient of physical activity. It is one of the causes of impaired fat metabolism; therefore, it contributes to the atherosclerosis progression and other vascular problems;
- Family history. This mechanism is not yet fully understood, however, studies clearly support the proposition that people with close relatives who suffer from coronary artery disease or hypertension are more prone to atherosclerosis;
- Sex. Pre-menopausal women are protected, to some extent, by female sex hormones – estrogens. This accounts for males being diagnosed with atherosclerosis more often and earlier than females. However, some studies have shown an increased incidence of atherosclerosis in young women. It is believed to be due to smoking and use of hormonal contraceptives;
- Age. After 35 years of age, men face increased risk of atherosclerosis and its complications. It is believed that males aged 35 to 50 are at the most danger of developing atherosclerosis.
Next chapter: Symptoms of Atherosclerosis
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