Factors that stress your arteries and increase the risk of injury, buildup of plaques and disease include the following:

  • High blood pressure. High blood pressure is an important risk factor for carotid artery disease. Excess pressure on the walls of your arteries can weaken them and leave them more vulnerable to damage.
  • Smoking. Nicotine can irritate the inner lining of your arteries. It also increases your heart rate and blood pressure.
  • Age. As you age, your arteries become less elastic and more prone to injury.
  • Abnormal blood-fat levels. High levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, the "bad" cholesterol, and high levels of triglycerides, a blood fat, encourage the accumulation of plaques.
  • Diabetes. Diabetes affects not only your ability to handle glucose appropriately but also your ability to process fats efficiently, placing you at greater risk of high blood pressure and atherosclerosis.
  • Obesity. Carrying excess pounds increases your chances of high blood pressure, atherosclerosis and diabetes.
  • Heredity. Having a family history of atherosclerosis or coronary artery disease increases your risk of developing these conditions, as well.
  • Physical inactivity. Lack of exercise contributes to a number of conditions, including high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity.

Often, these risk factors occur together, creating even greater risk than if they occur alone.

Oct. 01, 2011