Harvard Heart Letter

Aortic aneurysm: a potential killer

Fatty deposits in the aorta, the body’s largest blood vessel, can weaken its walls, causing a bulge called an abdominal aortic aneurysm. If an aneurysm bursts, the result is usually catastrophic. Because such aneurysms rarely cause symptoms until they rupture, people at risk may benefit from an ultrasound exam of the aorta. Risk factors for this kind of aneurysm include smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, emphysema, being overweight, and having a family history of aortic disease or heart disease. Medicare covers an aneurysm check for men who have smoked more than 100 cigarettes in their lives and women with a family history of aneurysm.
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