An aortic aneurysm certainly sounds serious, and there’s no question that the complications that arise from this condition are potentially life-threatening. Thankfully, aortic aneurysms aren’t all that common — they affect 5-10 people in the United States out of every 100,000 — and deaths related to the condition cause approximately 15,000 deaths annually.
Still, the team here at Advance Cardiovascular Specialists feels it’s important that you understand your risks for an aortic aneurysm so that you can stay one step ahead of your cardiovascular health.
Aortic aneurysm explained
Your cardiovascular system circulates blood throughout your body, and the primary blood vessel responsible for delivering newly oxygenated blood from your heart is your aorta. This large vessel carries blood from your heart, through your chest and abdomen, and branches off into two arteries in your pelvis, which are called your iliac arteries.
With an aortic aneurysm, the walls of this blood vessel develop a bulge, which creates a weak spot in the aorta. Though some aneurysms remain small and don’t create any problems, others rupture or dissect, which is a life-threatening occurrence as blood leaks out into your body.
The two types of aortic aneurysms
There are two main types of aortic aneurysms, which are distinguished by their locations:
If the aneurysm develops in your thoracic region (chest), it’s called a thoracic aneurysm. These aneurysms are typically caused by high blood pressure, atherosclerosis (thickening of your aorta), or trauma to your chest.
Should the bulge in your blood vessel develop in your abdominal region, we fittingly call it an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA). This type of aneurysm is more common than a thoracic aneurysm and is usually a result of atherosclerosis.
Risks for aortic aneurysms
One of the primary problems when it comes to aortic aneurysms is that there are few (or no) symptoms that accompany the condition. Many people only become aware of the problem once the unthinkable happens and the aorta ruptures.
At our practice, we feel it’s important to understand your risks so that we can screen you for an aneurysm, which allows us to take the necessary steps to manage or treat the condition to prevent complications.
As we mentioned, aortic aneurysms tend to develop because of cardiovascular problems, such as high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, and high cholesterol.
Diving a little deeper, AAAs are more common in men over the age of 65 and occur more frequently in white people than black people.
When it comes to lifestyle, the CDC reports that smoking presents the biggest risk when it comes to aortic aneurysms, in both men and women.
If you carry one or more of these risks, it’s important to have us routinely screen your cardiovascular health.
Treating your aneurysm
If we find an aneurysm, our next steps are determined by the size of the bulge. If it’s small, we monitor it closely using ultrasound. We can also take steps to improve your cardiovascular health through medications and lifestyle changes, such as losing weight.
If your aneurysm is large, we can perform an endovascular repair or repair the aorta with a graft, which requires open surgery.
If you have concerns about your potential for developing an aortic aneurysm, we urge you to contact our office in Mountain View, California, to set up an appointment.