There are three classes of risk factor for atherosclerosis. Causal risk factors are those where evidence supports a direct cause-and-effect role. These risk factors include nicotine use, high blood pressure, elevated serum cholesterol or LDL, low HDL, and high plasma glucose.
Conditional risk factors are those where the existence of a cause-and-effect relationship and the magnitude of the relationship are less clear. These risk factors include elevated triglycerides, lipoprotein (a), small LDL particles, homocysteine, fibrinogen, plasminogen activator inhibitor, and C reactive protein.
Predisposing risk factors are those that most likely intensify the causal risk factors. They include obesity (BMI >30), abdominal obesity (waist >88 cm in women), physical inactivity, family history of premature coronary artery disease (CAD), behavioral factors (depression, anger, hostility), and ethnic characteristics.6
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