Atherosclerosis is a widespread disease of the arterial system that is generated by injury to the vasculature due
to hypercholesterolemia, hypertension and inflammatory diseases. In the current review, we discuss the role of different
risk factors, including obesity, hypertension and hypercholesterolemia in atherosclerosis, which may ultimately lead to either
cardiovascular or cerebral complication. Inflammation plays a pivotal role in conjunction with obesity, hypertension
and hypercholesterolemia in the etiology of atherosclerosis. We discuss the role of inflammation with regards to reactive
oxygen species (ROS) linked to the specific risk factors. The role of nitric oxide (NO) in conjunction with ROS is also
important. Correlations of inflammatory cytokines and their functions in the mentioned risk factors are also discussed. The
risk factors may ultimately lead to ischemic events, including transient ischemic attacks (TIAs), thrombotic stroke and
myocardial infarction. Importantly, it seems as if there is a combination of pathophysiological triggers that may eventually
result in atherosclerosis. Therefore, atherosclerosis is not the result of only one risk factor, but a combination of various
physiological processes such as homeostasis and the inflammatory response. Ultimately, each patient's risk profile is
unique and determines their immediate risk for acute thrombotic events or lethal ischemia.
Atherosclerosis, hypercholesterolemia, hypertension, ischemia, obesity.
Department of Physiology, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Pretoria, Private Bag x323, ARCADIA 0007, South Africa.