Atherosclerosis describes the process by which
damage to the artery wall leads to 'furring up' of the artery.
This is the result of damage
to the delicate inner lining (endothelium) of the artery by certain
- arterial disease increases with age.
- especially cigarettes but also pipes and cigars if the smoke is
inhaled. Smoking doubles the risk of a heart attack and of stroke
(in patients with high blood pressure), and massively increases
aggravates the progression of complications of peripheral arterial
disease. The number of cigarettes smoked is less important than
the mere fact of smoking.
high blood pressure
- most vascular disease is associated with mild hypertension (high
pressure) because it is so common. The risks of disease are
rapidly reversed by controlling the pressure.
- the main culprit is low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol.
The overall cholesterol level is a good guide to LDL cholesterol
levels. Ideally it should be around 5 mmol/l.
- a family history indicates this. Men are more affected than
women although the risks increase for women as they grow older.
Combining these risk factors
increases the risks of atherosclerosis significantly.