What are the risk factors for atherosclerosis and heart attack?
Factors that increase the risk of developing atherosclerosis and heart attacks include increased blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, use of tobacco, diabetes mellitus, male gender, and a family history of coronary heart disease. While family history and male gender are genetically determined, the other risk factors can be modified through changes in lifestyle and medications. • High Blood Cholesterol (Hyperlipidemia). A high level of cholesterol in the blood is associated with an increased risk of heart attack because cholesterol is the major component of the plaques deposited in arterial walls. Cholesterol, like oil, cannot dissolve in the blood unless it is combined with special proteins called lipoproteins. (Without combining with lipoproteins, cholesterol in the blood would turn into a solid substance.) The cholesterol in blood is either combined with lipoproteins as very low-density lipoproteins (VLDL), low-density lipoproteins (LDL) or high-density lipoproteins (HDL). The cho