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Abdominal aortic aneurysms present no symptoms until they're life-threatening, which makes screening and treatment vital. An aortic aneurysm is a bulge in the wall of the aorta. The largest artery in the body, the aorta extends from the heart into the legs. An aortic aneurysm often develops as a result of atherosclerosis, which refers to the hardening of arteries due to plaque buildup. This buildup can weaken artery walls.

When aortic aneurysms develop below the chest, they are known as abdominal aortic aneurysms (AAAs). Though women can develop AAAs, the condition is most common in men older than age 65 who have at least one risk factor, such as smoking or a family history of AAA.

Detection and treatment

Men who have a history of smoking should sign up for at least one ultrasound or CT scan screening between ages 65 and 75. Those who have never smoked should still discuss screening options with their doctors.

If an aneurysm is found during screening, doctors may recommend surgery, based on its size, to prevent an AAA from becoming life threatening. If the aneurysm is small, the doctor may choose to monitor it through routine scans or ultrasounds.

If the aneurysm is large, open surgery can replace the damaged section of aorta with a man-made replacement. Minimally invasive endovascular surgery also can be used to place a stent at the site of the aneurysm and strengthen the aorta.

Dr. Frank Schmidt Jr., cardiovascular and thoracic surgeon at Northwest Heart and Vascular Institute, is accepting new patients and scheduling appointments now. His new clinic opens on May 16 in Siloam Springs at 603-2 N. Progress Ave., Suite 400. To schedule an appointment, call 479-757-4840.

Symptoms you shouldn't ignore

AAAs may not show any recognizable symptoms until they tear, burst or leak. Ruptured aneurysms can cause dangerous bleeding that requires immediate surgery. Signs of a ruptured AAA include:

• Dizziness

• Intense back or abdominal pain

• Low blood pressure

• Nausea

• Rapid heart rate

• Shortness of breath

• Sweating

• Vomiting

Bottom line: Don't wait to schedule a screening until it's too late, especially if you have risk factors for an AAA.

AAA-OK

There are multiple ways to lower your risk of abdominal aortic aneurysms (AAAs) that can also improve your overall health. Here are two that have a sizable impact:

  1. Don't smoke, and if you do, quit. If you smoke or have a history of smoking, you are three to five times more likely to develop an AAA.
  2. Manage your weight, blood pressure, cholesterol and stress. Physicians can recommend lifestyle changes, such as dietary changes and exercise plans, and medications that can help you lose weight and lower blood pressure, cholesterol and stress levels, all of which impact your cardiovascular health.

Tidbits

• When an aneurysm occurs in the section of the aorta that passes through the chest, it is called a thoracic aortic aneurysm. These are less common than abdominal aortic aneurysms (AAAs).

• Aneurysms can occur in arteries other than the aorta. For example, cerebral aneurysms take place in the brain.

• While atherosclerosis is the most common cause of AAA, an injury or other disease can also cause an AAA to develop.

General News on 05/15/2019

Print Headline: The AAA you don't need

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