When the wall of an artery becomes thin and weak, it can stretch and bulge like a balloon. This weakened area is called an aneurysm. When it happens in the aorta, it’s called an aortic aneurysm. The most common part of the aorta affected is in the abdominal (stomach) area. This is called an abdominal aortic aneurysm or AAA. Since the aorta is the main artery out of your heart, an aortic aneurysm is a dangerous condition. If it grows large enough or weak enough, the artery wall can rupture, leading to life-threatening bleeding.
The most common causes of aortic aneurysm are atherosclerosis (clogged arteries) and high blood pressure. At highest risk are males over the age of 60 who smoke and people with a family history of AAA. If you’re at risk, you should be evaluated early and monitored regularly.
Unfortunately, aortic aneurysms often produce no symptoms until they rupture. Before rupture, some patients with an AAA may experience severe, steady back or abdominal pain that is not relieved by pain medication. Sometimes your healthcare provider can detect a mass in your abdomen.
Adopting a heart-healthy lifestyle can help you prevent the clogged arteries that can cause an aortic aneurysm.
- Eat lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat sources of protein such as nuts and fish
- Exercise regularly
- Monitor your blood pressure regularly
- Maintain a healthy weight and keep diabetes under control
- Quit smoking