Could atherosclerosis already be clogging your arteries?

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Ever wish you could see inside your diabetes, Smoking:Tobacco smoke damages endothelium and accelerates atherosclerosis. Smoking also increases inflammation, the process that makes plaques unstable. On the other hand, “if you quit smoking, after a few years your risk falls nearly to that of a nonsmoker,” says Borer.

Sedentary lifestyle:Exercise keeps arteries’ endothelium healthy. This helps explain why frequent exercise dramatically reduces the risk of atherosclerosis. Exercise also reduces the risk of diabetes, another cause of atherosclerosis. Thirty minutes a day provides a large benefit, but any exercise is better than none.

High blood pressure and cholesterol: If you’re leaving your blood pressure untreated, your arteries are taking the pounding. Lowering cholesterol to healthy levels is proven to reduce the risk of heart attacks. Some people can achieve healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels with lifestyle changes alone. Many, though, will require medicines to reduce the risk.

What you don’t see can hurt you. Until we can see inside our arteries, the best advice is to start lowering your risk for atherosclerosis now.

“Without question, reducing your risk factors will lower your chances of dying from cardiovascular disease,” the most common killer of Americans, says Schaefer.