Affiliation: Department of Physiology, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Pretoria, Private Bag x323, ARCADIA 0007, South Africa.
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.