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Blog: Risk factors for atherosclerosis


Atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, is a condition that begins in childhood and progresses throughout adulthood. The best way to stay ahead of atherosclerosis is to prevent it through a healthy lifestyle. Talk to your doctor about your risk factors for this condition and to learn how to prevent its dangerous effects, which include heart attack, stroke and aneurysm.

Risk factors include:

  • Family history of the disease
  • Age: Men 45 years and older, women 55 years and older
  • Sex: Male
  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Poor diet
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Diabetes type 1 and type 2
  • Overweight and obesity
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Metabolic syndrome, a combination of three out of the following five findings:
    • Low HDL-cholesterol (good cholesterol)
    • High triglycerides
    • Elevated blood sugar
    • Elevated blood pressure
    • Increased waist circumference—greater than 40 inches in men and 35 inches in women


Most people are diagnosed with atherosclerosis after they develop symptoms such as chest pain, stroke or pain in the legs and trouble walking. However, people can be screened and treated for risk factors.

If you have symptoms, your doctor will ask you questions that will help determine what arteries might be affected. The doctor will also need to know your full medical history. A physical exam will be done. Tests will depend on which arteries may be involved. Many of these tests detect problems with the arteries that are not getting enough blood. Tests that evaluate the atherosclerotic arteries are:

To find a Centegra Physician Care doctor who will help you understand your risks for atherosclerosis and ways to prevent and treat this disease, call 815-338-6600.