Types of Arterial Aneurysms
Arterial aneurysms are a potentially life-threatening health condition, causing thousands of deaths each year. Basically, an aneurysm is a weakening of a blood vessel. They are named based on the location within the body. They may occur in the chest or thoracic cavity.
They may also be found in the carotid arteries of the neck or the femoral arteries in the upper legs. No matter what the location, it is a health condition that requires medical treatment. An aneurysm in the brain, for example, can lead to a stroke.
Causes of an Aneurysm
Scientists are uncertain about what causes an aneurysm. However, research has uncovered compelling evidence which provides some answers. Like other cardiovascular conditions, aneurysms may occur along genetic lines. Some individuals may be born with a congenital defect in an artery.
Since an aneurysm indicates some form of stress on a blood vessel, it makes sense that conditions which impact blood flow may be a likely cause. Atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries causes a narrowing of the diameter of blood vessels, causing an increase in pressure. Over time, this may weaken blood vessels.
The risk of aortic aneurysms increases with age, indicating that they may occur simply as a result of aging blood vessels which have weakened over a lifetime. Men are more likely to develop an aortic aneurysm than women. The aorta is located just above the heart and is the largest artery in the body. An aneurysm in this blood vessel, therefore, is especially dangerous.
The elderly are especially vulnerable to aneurysms in their extremities, particularly the popliteal arteries found behind the knee joint. Factors contributing to this are inactivity, an increased risk of high blood pressure, and other health conditions which may impact circulation.
Other health conditions may affect your risk of developing an arterial aneurysm. High blood pressure also places added strain on the heart and blood vessels. Risk factors associated with hypertension therefore, may play a role in what causes an aneurysm. Lifestyle factors such as cigarette smoking and obesity may exacerbate an existing condition.
Curiously, diabetes may help protect you against developing an aneurysm. A 2010 study in the European Journal of Vascular and Endovascular Surgery found that abdominal aortic aneurysms occurred less frequently in patients diagnosed with diabetes mellitus. The precise mechanism is not understood. The research suggests that cardiovascular conditions such as hypertension present more of a risk than other health conditions.
Controlling your blood pressure therefore, is imperative to reducing your risk of an aneurysm. Since diabetes and high blood pressure often occur together, it is wise to adopt lifestyle changes such as regular exercise and a healthy diet which can lower other risk factors associated with aneurysms.
Most often, an arterial aneurysm will have no symptoms. It is typically diagnosed with a CT scan or MRI. Because of the risk of rupture, surgery is generally recommended. Following surgery, the prognosis is excellent for returning to a normal, active life. As serious as it sounds, the recovery from this health issue shows the resilience of the human body.
Health Central: Aortic Aneurysms healthcentral.com
National Institutes of Health: Aneurysm nlm.nih.gov
S. Shantikumar et al. Diabetes and the abdominal aortic aneurysm. European Journal of Vascular and Endovascular Surgery, February 2010; 39(2):200-207.
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