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Aortic Aneurysms Pose Serious Health Risks in the United States

In a recent US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC) report, aortic aneurysms have emerged as a significant health concern in the United States. Aortic aneurysms, characterized by balloon-like bulges in the aorta, the body’s largest artery responsible for transporting blood from the heart throughout the body, can have fatal consequences when left untreated.

A Silent Threat

Aortic aneurysms can manifest in two critical ways: dissections and ruptures, both of which can lead to severe complications and even death. Dissections occur when the force of blood pumping splits the layers of the artery wall, causing blood to leak between them. Ruptures, on the other hand, involve the complete bursting of the aneurysm, leading to internal bleeding.

Alarming Statistics

Statistics from 2019 reveal the gravity of the situation, with aortic aneurysms and aortic dissections responsible for a staggering 9,904 deaths in that year alone. Men appear to be particularly vulnerable, accounting for approximately 59% of these fatalities. Furthermore, a history of smoking plays a significant role, contributing to roughly 75% of all abdominal aortic aneurysms.

Preventive Measures

To combat this growing health crisis, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has issued recommendations for men aged 65 to 75, who have a history of smoking. These individuals are advised to undergo ultrasound screenings for abdominal aortic aneurysms, even in the absence of symptoms. Early detection and intervention can be critical in preventing severe outcomes.

Types of Aortic Aneurysms

Aortic aneurysms are categorized into two primary types: thoracic and abdominal.

Thoracic Aortic Aneurysms: These occur in the chest and are equally likely to affect both men and women, becoming more common as individuals age. High blood pressure and sudden injuries are common causes. Symptoms may include sharp chest or upper back pain, shortness of breath, and difficulty breathing or swallowing.

Abdominal Aortic Aneurysms: Located below the chest, these aneurysms are more prevalent among men and those aged 65 and older. Atherosclerosis (hardened arteries) is a common cause, and they often present without symptoms. Symptoms, when they occur, may include throbbing or deep back or side pain, as well as discomfort in the buttocks, groin, or legs.

Other Types of Aneurysms

Aneurysms can also affect other parts of the body, such as the brain or peripheral arteries. Ruptured brain aneurysms can result in strokes, while peripheral aneurysms, though less likely to rupture, can cause blood clots that impede blood flow through the affected artery.

Risk Factors

Several risk factors contribute to the development of aortic aneurysms, including smoking, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, atherosclerosis, and certain inherited connective tissue disorders like Marfan syndrome and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. A family history of aortic aneurysms can also elevate an individual’s risk.

Treatment Options

Medications and surgery are the primary treatment methods for aortic aneurysms. Medications aim to lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of aneurysm development. In contrast, surgery involves repairing or replacing the affected section of the aorta, depending on the severity of the condition.

As aortic aneurysms continue to pose a substantial health risk in the United States, early detection, lifestyle modifications, and timely medical intervention are crucial in mitigating this potentially life-threatening condition. Stay informed and prioritize your health to reduce the risk of aortic aneurysms and their devastating consequences.

Source: National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health PromotionDivision for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention