An aortic aneurysm can be caused by atherosclerosis, hardening of blood vessels from the buildup of plaque (cholesterol and fat). It is important to understand the risk factors you can control—called modifiable risk factors—that contribute to the development of the disease.
You can keep track of your modifiable risk factors if you “Know Your Numbers.” These numbers refer to key markers of health such as blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference.
Although health care professionals check most of these numbers at annual checkups, it’s important for you to know your numbers and understand what they mean. That way, you can prevent heart disease before doctors are needed to cure it. By keeping your numbers within a healthy range, you can do a lot to improve any disease caused by atherosclerosis. Here are some steps you can take:
- Follow a healthy diet. A healthy diet is a good way to prevent heart disease from the buildup of plaque (cholesterol and fat deposits), including an aortic aneurysm. This includes: three to five servings of vegetables and two servings of fruit per day; two servings of fish high in omega-3-fatty acids per week; four handfuls of almonds or walnuts per week; use of healthy oils like olive and canola; and picking whole grains over refined grains.
- Be active and maintain a healthy weight. Be physically active and keep a healthy weight. The American Heart Association recommends 40 minutes of aerobic exercise of moderate to vigorous intensity three to four times a week. Healthy weight is based on Body Mass Index (BMI), a numerical value of your weight in relation to your height. A BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 indicates a normal weight.
- Stop smoking. If you smoke tobacco, please consult with your health care professional about ways to quit. Use of any tobacco product increases your blood pressure and promotes plaque buildup within the blood vessels. There are many aids, and even apps, now available to help you quit. Avoid secondhand smoke.
- Limit alcohol. If you drink, drink in moderation. That means no more than one drink per day if you’re a woman and no more than two drinks per day if you’re a man.
- Control diabetes. If you are unsure whether you have diabetes, speak with your health care professional about how to find out. And, if you have diabetes, it is important to take steps to control your blood sugar. Over time, high blood sugars can damage the inside of your blood vessels and lead to atherosclerosis.
- Manage high cholesterol. Consult with your doctor to find out whether you need a lipid panel, a blood test to check your cholesterol levels. If you don’t reach your goal cholesterol number despite eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly, your doctor may prescribe lipid-lowering medicine, such as statins.
- Keep your blood pressure controlled.