The Link Between Smoking and Aortic Aneurysms

The Link Between Smoking and Aortic Aneurysms

There are three main risk factors when it comes to heart disease, which is the number one cause of death in the United States: Smoking, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. Though not a terribly common condition, an aortic aneurysm is an example of a cardiovascular disease that’s directly linked to smoking.

To shed some light on this connection, the team here at Advanced Cardiology Specialists is taking this opportunity to add another reason to what should be a long list of reasons to quit smoking.

Here’s a look at how aortic aneurysms and smoking are connected.

An aneurysm explained

Your aorta starts in the lower right ventricle of your heart and travels between your lungs and into your abdomen, ending at your pelvis. This blood vessel is the main conduit through which all oxygenated blood is delivered to your body.

If there’s a weak spot in the walls of your aorta, it’s called an aneurysm. These weak spots typically develop in your abdomen, but they can also occur in the thoracic region between your lungs.

Our primary concern with an aneurysm is a rupture, which, in most cases, is fatal. These ruptures are responsible for nearly 10,000 deaths each year in the US, 75% of whom have a history of smoking.

The link between smoking and an aneurysm by the numbers

Scores of studies back up the claim that smoking is a major risk factor for aortic aneurysms, and this isn’t recent. A study from almost 25 years ago, in 1999, found that smokers were three times more likely than nonsmokers to develop an abdominal aortic aneurysm. 

Older studies like these have been confirmed time and again as this meta-analysis found. Pulling together information from 23 different studies, the analysis confirmed, “A strong association between smoking and the risk of developing abdominal aortic aneurysms.”

How smoking can lead to aortic aneurysm

So, we understand, on a numbers level, that smoking is directly related to your odds for developing an aortic aneurysm, but why, exactly?

The primary issue is that the chemicals in cigarette smoke cause inflammation in the cells that line your blood vessels. This inflammation narrows the available space inside your blood vessels, placing you at far more risk for:

In plainer terms, any time cells and tissues are inflamed, they’re in a state of distress and they’re far weaker. When this occurs in your aorta, it jeopardizes the strength of the walls in this major blood vessel, leading to weak spots that can grow and rupture as your heart keeps sending blood through the damaged area.

We hope that this information provides you with another reason why quitting smoking makes all the sense in the world.

If you have more questions or you’d like us to evaluate your risks for an aortic aneurysm, please contact our office in Mountain View, California, to set up an appointment.

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