Age is a significant risk factor for microvascular ischemic disease. According to a 2019 review, the disease affects just 5% of people who are at least 50 years of age but nearly 100% of people over the age of 90 years.
Other risk factors for microvascular ischemic disease include:
- high blood pressure
- high cholesterol
- a history of stroke and other cardiovascular diseases
- inflammation of the blood vessels due to infection or an overactive immune system
- exposure to radiation
The exact cause of microvascular ischemic disease remains poorly understood, however, as many factors can affect the blood vessels in the brain.
The accumulation of plaque, fatty tissue, or scar tissue inside arteries can partially or entirely restrict blood flow to the brain.
Without enough blood flow, certain areas of brain tissue may not receive enough oxygen, which can result in tissue damage or an ischemic stroke.
The blood vessels can also become hard and brittle. These hardened arteries can develop bulges called aneurysms, which can leak or burst, causing bleeding in the brain. This condition is called a hemorrhagic stroke.
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