Arteriosclerosis risk factors include hypertension, elevated levels of fats in the blood, cigarette smoking, diabetes mellitus, and obesity. Genetic risks are related to the ability of the body to process (uptake and metabolize) low-density lipids that contain cholesterol. Reduction of body cholesterol to normal levels through cholesterol-lowering drugs and a restricted-fat diet is usually prescribed. The latter generally entails substitution of vegetable fats for animal fats, although the use of trans fats, artificially hydrogenated vegetable oils found in margarine and vegetable shortening, was linked to increased risk of coronary disease, and they have been banned or restricted in packaged foods in the United States and other nations. Treatment of hypertension, stress management, and cessation of smoking are also important. Increasing consumption of antioxidants and folic acid may be protective. Surgical treatment that bypasses clogged areas or procedures such as angioplasty are sometimes necessary; gene therapy that forces the growth of new blood vessels bypassing an area has also been used. Exercise often can increase utilization of excess low-density lipids. Although the relationship between blood cholesterol levels and arteriosclerosis is not fully understood, the utilization of low-density lipids appears to be a primary indicator of the risk of arteriosclerosis.
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