Causes of arteriosclerosis


Arteriosclerosis (vascular calcification/arterial calcification) is an injury to the inner layer of the arterial wall. As a result of the injury, the vessel narrows due to the so-called plaque, which forms at the site of the vascular injury. This can have various causes; whereby high blood pressure, stress and lack of exercise and poor nutrition increase the susceptibility of the arteries to such vascular damage.

The most common causes of arteriosclerosis are:

  • High blood pressure
  • Overweight
  • Stress
  • Smoking
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Hyperthyroidism ̈berfunktion
  • Elevated LDL cholesterol
  • Decreased HDL cholesterol
  • Gout
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Chronic renal failure

High blood pressure promotes the development of arteriosclerosis. Normally the walls of the blood vessels are elastic and soft. However, the blood vessels lose this property due to the permanently increased blood pressure, especially the innermost wall layer becomes brittle.

Small injuries occur again and again, an inflammatory reaction often develops at these points and a wide variety of cells are deposited. This is the beginning of arteriosclerosis. The deposits in the blood vessels constrict the blood vessel and the heart needs more pressure to pump the blood through the constricted vessel.

In addition to high blood pressure, obesity is also a significant risk factor for the development of arteriosclerosis. Especially abdominal fat (also called visceral fat in medical terminology) leads to the development of arteriosclerosis. This is because abdominal fat is also the preferred source of inflammatory messengers in the blood.

Furthermore, most overweight people also suffer from elevated blood lipid levels. The excess cholesterol molecules are then deposited in the wall of the blood vessels and promote arteriosclerosis. Even permanent stress can lead to the development of arteriosclerosis.

  • On the one hand, stress leads to increased blood pressure. This leads to the elastic walls of the blood vessels becoming brittle quickly. – When the body is under stress, not only does the blood pressure rise, but certain stress hormones are also released in the adrenal glands.

These are adrenaline and cortisol. – Both favour inflammatory processes, which are now known to be the beginning of arteriosclerosis. – This is because increased amounts of blood lipids are deposited in the damaged vessel wall.

Smoking is clearly a risk factor for arteriosclerosis. However, it already depends on how much and how long you have smoked. Nicotine consumption damages the body in many ways: it is therefore worth stopping smoking.

  • On the one hand, it promotes the release of adrenaline and
  • Is causing the blood pressure to rise. – On the other hand, the blood becomes thicker due to the lack of oxygen, as more red blood cells are produced. – The blood platelets (thrombocytes) also tend to stick together more easily and thromboses (blood clots) can form.
  • Free radicals from smoking can also cause damage to the inner wall of the blood vessels. – Circulatory disorders due to smoking
  • Quitting smoking – but how? – Diseases caused by smoking

Diabetics have a very high risk of arteriosclerosis.

One reason for this is that there are usually other risk factors such as the metabolic syndrome. Diabetes mainly damages the small blood vessels (microangiopathy). This leads to diseases of the kidneys, eyes and nerves.

However, heart attacks (arteriosclerosis of the large blood vessels) are also significantly more common in diabetics. This is due to the fact that constant hyperglycaemia usually massively aggravates the existing lipid metabolism disorder. – Increased blood pressure,

  • Overweight and
  • Elevated blood lipids.

Hyperthyroidism is not a classic risk factor for arteriosclerosis. However, thyroid hormones influence the entire metabolism of the body and an overactive thyroid can have far-reaching consequences. Patients usually suffer from inner restlessness, palpitations, diarrhoea, increased sweating and unwanted weight loss.

Because the metabolism is so uncontrolled, there is also an increased splitting of fat molecules and the cholesterol level is increased. However, this favours the deposition of cholesterol particles in the vessel walls and ultimately promotes arteriosclerosis as a secondary cause. A permanently elevated cholesterol level is a risk factor for the development of arteriosclerosis, this is clearly scientifically proven.

In former times one thought that the Cholesterin in the walls of the blood vessels deposits itself like lime in a pipe. Today, however, we know that small centres of inflammation or damage to the vessel wall are necessary to cause arteriosclerosis. As part of these processes, cholesterol then accumulates in the vessel wall and eventually forms plaque.

An incorrect diet (especially foods containing sugar and fat) can also lead to arteriosclerosis. On the one hand, an incorrect diet together with lack of exercise is responsible for overweight. And overweight then promotes high blood pressure and diabetes mellitus.

In addition, patients suffer from significantly increased cholesterol levels. This constellation, called the metabolic syndrome, is responsible for the development of arteriosclerosis. In order to avoid overweight with all its secondary diseases, a full Mediterranean diet is recommended, especially high-fat foods should be avoided.

A lot of vegetables, wholemeal products, fish and lean meat should be main components of the diet. In addition, the development of arteriosclerosis is favoured by the fact that a high-fat and cholesterol-rich diet increases the blood fats in the blood to such an extent that they penetrate through the tear into the inner wall of the vessel, settle there and lead to thickening, which further constricts the vessel lumen. The blood constituents that settle on the inside of the vessel, also known as plaque or atheroma, can also become detached, be carried along by the bloodstream and cause a dangerous blockage of an artery.

Not only nutrition plays a major role in the development of arteriosclerosis. Lack of exercise is also a significant risk factor, as low physical activity promotes overweight. On the other hand, exercise could lead to insulin-dependent sugar absorption in the muscles, which would counteract existing diabetes mellitus.

Exercise is therefore immensely important in order to avoid diseases of civilisation such as high blood pressure, diabetes and overweight. Even after a heart attack, it is recommended to do sports again in special heart sport groups or under medical supervision. This could also be interesting for you: High blood pressure and sportsThere are also genetic factors that contribute to the development of arteriosclerosis.

There are always families in which heart attacks and strokes occur more frequently. Not in every case the triggering genes are already known. In the laboratory, researchers keep discovering genes that can promote arteriosclerosis.

These are often changes in the genetic material that favour small inflammatory processes in the blood vessel wall or a mutation in the fat metabolism that leads to a significantly increased cholesterol level. Atherosclerosis then begins very early. With increasing age, the blood vessels are further constricted and may lead to the complications described above.

The first affected vessel is usually the aorta. Most severely affected are often the abdominal organs, arteries supplying the heart and brain. The peripheral vascular branches that supply the arms and legs (extremities) can also be severely affected by arteriosclerosis.

Arteriosclerosis, which is caused by fatty deposits between the intima and media, affects not only the vessels of the abdominal organs but also the kidney, adrenal gland, spleen and pancreas. Gout is caused by an increased deposition of uric acid crystals in joints. The cause is an increased uric acid level in the blood.

This is called hyperuricemia. This can also lead to arteriosclerosis or accelerate arteriosclerotic changes in the blood vessel walls. This can be further promoted by fatty foods or alcohol consumption.

Genetic factors also play a role. Elevated uric acid levels should therefore always be treated with medication. A special form of vascular adiposis is the so-called focal calcification or sclerosis.

In patients over 50 years of age, fat is stored in the media (middle layer of the arterial wall). Furthermore, a degeneration of the smooth muscle cells occurs. The age-related vascular changes can still be separated from the pathological arteriosclerosis.

This leads to a calcification of the media due to the destruction of the smooth muscle cells. This leads to a loss of elasticity of the vessels, wall thickening and thus to a narrowing of the lumen. The vessels become rigid and there is a corresponding change in blood pressure and the flow properties of the blood. In extreme cases, the so-called goose gargle artery occurs, in which ossification of the vessels due to excessive calcification can be found.