Many of the risk factors for heart disease or peripheral artery disease (PAD) also increase the risk for carotid artery disease. According to the NIH, making healthy lifestyle decisions and taking medications (prescription and over-the-counter drugs) as instructed can help decrease your carotid artery disease risk.

Factors that increase risk for carotid artery disease include the following:

  • Age (risk is higher in men before the age of 75 and higher in women after 75)
  • Diet high in saturated fat, trans fats, sodium (salt), sugar, and dietary cholesterol
  • Family or personal history of atherosclerosis
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Unhealthy cholesterol levels (e.g., high LDL ["bad" cholesterol], low HDL ["good" cholesterol])
  • Smoking
  • Pre-diabetes (insulin resistance) or diabetes
  • Overweight/obesity
  • Sedentary lifestyle

Metabolic syndrome is a group of factors that increase diabetes, stroke, and heart disease risk. At least 3 of the following 5 findings indicate metabolic syndrome and a higher-than-average risk for carotid artery disease:

  • Abdominal obesity (waist circumference greater than 40 inches in men or greater than 35 inches in women)
  • Elevated fasting triglyceride level (150 mg/dL or higher) or taking medication to lower triglycerides
  • Low HDL cholesterol level (less than 40 mg/dL in men or less than 50 mg/dL in women)
  • Blood pressure of 130/85 mm Hg or higher or taking blood pressure-lowering medication
  • Fasting blood glucose level of 100 mg/dL or greater or taking medication for diabetes

Source: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute – National Institutes of Health (NIH)

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at

Published: 03 Apr 2014

Last Modified: 04 Nov 2014