Everyone knows that a healthy lifestyle can prevent heart disease and high blood pressure, but did you know that it can also help you avoid an aortic aneurysm? This lesser-known condition can quickly become an emergency, so it is important to learn about the symptoms of aortic aneurysms and take steps to prevent their formation.
What is an aortic aneurysm?
The aorta, your largest artery, carries blood from the heart to the rest of the body. An aneurysm occurs when a section of the artery wall weakens and forms a bulge that can expand over time. An aneurysm can rupture if it experiences enough stress, causing potentially fatal internal bleeding.
There are two types of aortic aneurysm: thoracic aortic aneurysm (which occurs in the chest) and the more common abdominal aortic aneurysm (which occurs in the abdomen). Thoracic aneurysms typically result from a pre-existing health condition, while abdominal aneurysms tend to result from controllable factors such as smoking or high blood pressure.
How can I prevent an aortic attack?
Living a healthy lifestyle is the most important preventative measure you can take against aneurysms. Maintaining a healthy diet rich in vitamins and minerals, managing your preexisting health conditions, (especially high blood pressure and cholesterol levels) and getting regular exercise are great ways to keep your circulation strong.
Avoiding smoking is one of the most beneficial measures to protect yourself. According to the CDC, people with a history of smoking are three to five times more likely to develop an abdominal aortic aneurysm. Therefore, you should avoid smoking in order as a means of reducing aneurysm risk.
If you are 60 or older and have a family history of aneurysms, your doctor recommends checking for aneurysms at your annual wellness exam.
How do doctors treat an aneurysm?
Your doctor will suggest treatment based on the size of the aneurysm. If an aneurysm is small, your doctor can monitor it closely and may prescribe a blood pressure medication. If an aneurysm is larger, your doctor might recommend surgery, such as implanting a Nellix sealing device or a graft over the walls of the aorta.
What are the symptoms of aortic aneurysm?
Symptoms of a thoracic aortic aneurysm include painful swallowing and shortness of breath. The main sign of an abdominal aneurysm is pain in the back, legs and buttocks. Sometimes, aneurysms don't have any symptoms at all. Aortic aneurysms are typically found during physicals at a doctor's office.
When an aneurysm bursts, you might experience lightheadedness, dizziness, sharp pain in the chest, back, or abdomen, decreasing blood pressure, loss of breath, or loss of consciousness.
As with any emergency, immediate treatment is essential if an aneurysm bursts. In a heart-related emergency, call 911 and request the ambulance take you to the nearest CHI St. Luke's Health emergency room. If you currently have an aortic aneurysm, make an appointment with a cardiologist at Baylor St. Luke's Medical Center, which US News & World Report recognized as a 2018 high-performing hospital in abdominal aortic aneurysm repair.
Healthline | Aortic Aneurysm
CDC | Aortic Aneurysm Fact Sheet