An abdominal aortic aneurism is a life-threatening condition which often results in the death of the patient. In fact ruptured abdominal aortic aneurisms are blamed for more than 15,000 deaths every year in the US alone.
Incidence of abdominal aortic aneurisms is on the rise and is responsible for an increasing number of deaths each year. Knowing this, it would seem beneficial for us to consider briefly some of the causes of aortic aneurisms. Perhaps there are some things we can do to minimize the risk.
Aneurism causes can be classified into three groups. These include…
The first two classifications can be grouped together as…
Marfan Syndrome is a relatively rare genetic condition, inflicting about 1 in 50,000 people. In short it affects the connective tissues throughout the body. The problems generated from this condition, therefore, are not restricted to aneurisms or even the cardio-vascular system. For example abnormalities in connective tissues in other parts of the body can result in…
Marfan syndrome involves a defect in the gene that makes fibrillin - a connective tissue protein found in the aortic wall.
Because Marfan syndrome affects the connective tissues, aneurisms that are caused by this condition have a higher risk of rupture and dissection than aneurisms caused by other influences. That means they rupture more often and at smaller sizes.
Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome can also occasionally cause aortic aneurisms. It is a connective-tissue disorder characterized by…
As indicated from these first two conditions, heredity is strongly associated with aneurism causes. As is true with other varieties, abdominal aortic aneurisms tend to run in families.
People with a first-degree relative suffering from one or more aneurisms are statistically at increased risk themselves. Since many aneurisms are detected when searching for something else it would be a good idea to alert your doctor that you have a close relative with an aneurism.
Enzymes can work to degenerate blood vessel strength. Bulging of the aorta is sometimes due to an intrinsic defect in the protein construction of the aortic wall. This protein defect is most often caused by enzymatic destruction. The source of this enzymatic destruction is not currently understood. Similar aortic defects may also be caused by injury or infection.
Congenital Defects such as those leading to an inherited weakness in blood vessel walls can also cause aneurisms. Anything that weakens the aortic wall makes aneurism development more likely. A weakened and less elastic blood vessel wall is more likely to bulge under high blood pressure.
Unfortunately the conditions listed above are, for the most part, beyond our control. They just happen to us. The good news is some of these conditions are rare. If you and I are at risk for developing an aneurism it is likely that, at least in part, the risk is from…
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Are there health issues – in addition to your heart health – that concern you? Like…
Anxiety? Or not sleeping well? Or joint pain? Or low energy? Or poor digestion? Or weight gain? Or stress? Why do so many people suffer from these symptoms and others? Those nagging health issues that seem so difficult to define.
Did you know that these health problems – as well as more serious chronic diseases – can be the result of …
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Often aneurisms are caused or influenced by conditions that are more or less within our control.
Generally speaking there are two things that may lead to the development of an aortic aneurism. The first is damage to the aorta and the second is pressure.
Some conditions – including those mentioned above – result in damage to the aortic wall. The resultant weakening makes the aorta less able to stretch and handle pressure. As pressure increases the weakened and less flexible aortic wall bulges at a weak spot.
One very common condition that damages the aortic walls is…
With atherosclerosis - hardening of the arteries - the arteries become clogged and hardened by a sludgy buildup restricting blood to important parts of the body.
As we know, atherosclerosis is a major factor in coronary heart disease. For this reason alone we should be very serious about avoiding this condition. But in addition to this, atherosclerosis has particular application to the development of aneurisms.
The ‘hardening’ of the arteries which results from atherosclerosis buildup causes the aorta to become less flexible. That, of course, means that it cannot respond well to pressure.
Atherosclerosis causes a mechanical weakening of the aortic wall as well as a reduction in the aorta’s elastic qualities. Further it promotes a low oxygen state usually due to obstruction of the vasa vasorum - nutrient blood vessels which supply the walls of large arteries or veins.
The reduced oxygen levels in the aortic tissue add to the degeneration of the aorta. The degeneration ultimately may lead to widening of the vessel lumen - aortic channel - and loss of structural integrity.
Damage to the aortic wall is accelerated by hypertension. As the aorta is weakened and its elastic qualities are diminished increased blood pressure works to widen the aorta further breaking down aortic wall integrity.
As pressure pushes against the aortic wall it tries to expand. But like an old inner tube it cannot respond adequately to handle the pressure. And also like an old inner tube a bulge will eventually form at a weakened spot.
Unlike Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and Marfan Syndrome, atherosclerosiscan often be controlled by simple lifestyle changes. Smoking, high blood pressure and high cholesterol are the primary causes of atherosclerosis.
High Blood Pressure
Hypertension influences the development and rupture of aneurisms in at least two ways. As hinted at above, high blood pressure increases the sludgy build-up in our arteries known as atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis, in return, increases the likelihood of aneurism development and rupture.
But hypertension plays another important role in our fight against aneurisms. Without pressure aneurisms cannot develop. Let’s return to the illustration about the old inner tube. If the inner tube is not inflated a bulge will never develop at a weakened spot. Once the inner tube is over-inflated a bulge is likely to appear. As pressure continues to increase the inner tube is likely to form a leak somewhere in the bulging area.
High blood pressure increases our likelihood of developing an aneurism at a weakened spot along the aorta. Once an aneurism has developed, its size can vary in connection with the increase and decrease of blood pressure. As blood pressure increases the likelihood of rupture also increases.
All of us know that high total cholesterol is a heart health problem. But because of the connection between cholesterol imbalance and atherosclerosis, high cholesterol can be a factor in aneurism development.
High LDL, low HDL and high triglycerides can all contribute to heart disease. Aneurism development is just one potential result. If your cholesterol and triglycerides are too high you are at increased risk for a number of health issues. Some of these are:
You can now add aneurisms to the list.
Having an abdominal aortic aneurism can be very serious business. Unfortunately the causes are not always known. But it makes good heart health sense to have a general robust approach to heart health. Some things that influence aneurisms are within our control.
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