Understanding your heart health risks is one of the best ways to avoid very serious, and potentially life-threatening, problems. Though an aortic aneurysm may not be terribly common — the condition causes nearly 10,000 deaths a year in the United States — it’s still a condition well worth considering when it comes to your preventive care.
At Advanced Cardiovascular Specialists, Inc., our team of highly qualified cardiovascular experts partners with our patients to provide them with the education they need to safeguard their heart health. As part of this effort, here we review whether you may be at risk for an aortic aneurysm and what we may be able to do to mitigate those risks.
An aortic aneurysm explained
An aortic aneurysm is a bulge in your main artery — the blood vessel that delivers oxygen- and nutrient-rich blood throughout your body. The artery travels from your heart and down through your abdomen, with smaller arteries branching off along the way to reach all areas of your body.
The bulge that’s associated with an aortic aneurysm creates pressure and weakness in the wall of the artery, putting it at risk for bursting or leaking.
Aortic aneurysms typically develop in one of two areas:
- Thoracic aortic aneurysm, which is located in your chest
- Abdominal aortic aneurysm, a bulge that occurs below your chest
\Aneurysms can also occur in other areas of your body — for example, a stroke is caused by a ruptured aneurysm in your brain.
Aortic aneurysm risk factors
Far and away, the biggest risk factor in whether you develop an aortic aneurysm is smoking — a whopping 75% of abdominal aneurysms occur in people with a history of tobacco use. This risk factor is one that we urge you to address, not only to avoid an aortic aneurysm, but to improve almost every other area of your health. Smoking is one of the most detrimental habits when it comes to your cardiovascular, and overall, health.
Outside of smoking, other factors that place you at higher risk for developing an aortic aneurysm include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and atherosclerosis.
Each of these conditions causes your heart to work harder and leads to clogged or weakened blood vessels. The good news is that there are many ways to combat conditions like high blood pressure and high cholesterol, especially with the right diet and exercise program. We’re happy to sit down with you to review your numbers to come up with a plan that will bring them down.
The last three risk factors are ones over which you have little control — genetics, being male, and older age. Approximately 60% of deaths from aortic aneurysms occur in males, especially those over the age of 65.
It’s for this reason that we recommend an aortic aneurysm screening for this risk group between the ages of 65 and 75, even if you’ve never smoked. If you have smoked or you have a family history of aortic aneurysms, we may want to screen you earlier.
If you’d like to further evaluate your risks for an aortic aneurysm, please contact one of our three locations in Mountain View, Watsonville, or Monterey, California, to set up an appointment.