(HealthDay News) -- Atherosclerosis, frequently dubbed "hardening of the arteries," is the number one cause of death in the United States, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute says.

The agency adds these factors can increase your risk of developing atherosclerosis:

  • High blood levels of "bad" cholesterol and low levels of "good" cholesterol.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Smoking.
  • Having diabetes.
  • Being overweight.
  • Not getting enough exercise.
  • Eating an unhealthy diet full of fat, cholesterol, sugar or salt.
  • Getting older.
  • Having a family history of heart disease, especially at an early age.