The exact cause of atherosclerosis isn't known. However, studies show that atherosclerosis is a slow, complex disease that may start in childhood. It develops faster as you age.
Atherosclerosis may start when certain factors damage the inner layers of the arteries. These factors include:
• High amounts of certain fats and cholesterol in the blood
• High blood pressure
• High amounts of sugar in the blood due to insulin resistance or diabetes
When damage occurs, your body starts a healing process. The healing may cause plaque to build up where the arteries are damaged.
Eventually, a section of plaque can break open, causing a blood clot to form at the site. A blood clot will narrow the artery even more and may worsen angina (chest pain) or cause a heart attack or stroke.
Researchers continue to look for the causes of atherosclerosis. They hope to find answers to questions such as:
• Why and how do the arteries become damaged?
• How does plaque develop and change over time?
• Why does plaque crack and lead to blood clots?
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