Atherosclerosis refers to the progressive deposition of lipid plaques on the walls of arteries causing chronic inflammation. It is the most common manifestation of cardiovascular disease and a significant contributor to worldwide morbidity.

Untreated atherosclerosis leads to the formation of a thrombus which can partially or completely occlude the blood vessel. Blood clots from the thrombus can also break off and block other arteries. The resultant ischemia from the occlusion of the blood vessels can have devastating consequences, including:

  • Heart attacks
  • Strokes
  • Renal artery stenosis
  • Peripheral artery disease


What Causes Atherosclerosis?

While the initial inciting factor of the atherogenesis of the primary fatty streak is still being understood, a combination of factors is thought to contribute to the progression.

The early fatty lesions are present since childhood, mainly observed in areas of high oscillatory shear index. The pathogenesis of the development of atherosclerosis is contributed to by endothelial dysfunction, inflammation and activation of the immune system, cholesterol metabolism, and other external risk factors.


What are the Risk Factors for Atherosclerosis?

The development of atherosclerosis is influenced by several risk factors, including:

  • Hypercholesterolemia
  • Hypertension
  • Diabetes Mellitus
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Older age 
  • Male gender
  • Family history and genetics
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Obesity
  • High-fat diet

Source: Björkegren, J., & Lusis, A. J. (2022). Atherosclerosis: Recent developments. Cell, 185(10), 1630–1645.