Biology of Public Health
Environmental Risk Factors for Atherosclerosis
Atherosclerosis and its complications cause up to half of all adult deaths in the United
States (Belland, 2004).
This debilitating disease is defined as the narrowing of arteries
characterized by deposition of lipid, inflammation, and calcification (Essentials of Public Health
Fatty materials are deposited and eventually build up in an artery’s inner lining.
Common risk factors include cigarette smoking, hypertension, diabetes, being overweight, lack
of physical activity, hypercholesterolemia, and genetic predisposition (Essentials of Public
Health Biology, 425).
However, the disease is very complicated and multifactorial; about 40%
of atherosclerosis cases do not have any well-defined risk factors associated with them (Belland,
In some cases, environmental factors and infectious diseases have been proven to
contribute to the development of atherosclerosis.
Two of these factors include
and ambient air pollution.
One environmental factor that has recently been linked with atherosclerosis is bacterial infection.
, an intracellular pathogen, is associated with atherosclerosis because of its
presence in atherosclerotic lesions.
This bacterium is the leading cause of human respiratory tract
infections in the world (Mertens, 2010).
This bacterium is a major cause of pharyngitis, bronchitis, and
It has also been associated with meningoencephalitis, arthritis, myocarditis,
Guillain-Barré syndrome, and even lung cancer.
is classified as an obligate
intracellular pathogen because it is necessary for it to infect another cell in order to reproduce.
bacterium is typically spread through humans by respiratory droplets or by direct contact.
can infect a huge assortment of host cell types, including “lung epithelium, resident macrophages
(alveolar and monocyte derived), circulating monocytes, arterial smooth muscle cells and vascular
endothelium” (Belland, 2004).
enters a cell, it survives as a parasite. The host cell