Aneurysm check urged for some men

For older smokers, a quick test for a bulging aorta could save lives.

If you are a man between the ages of 65 and 75, and you smoke or once smoked, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has a message for you: Ask your doctor to check you for a common but generally silent condition that can suddenly turn deadly.

The condition — abdominal aortic aneurysm — is a weakening of the muscular wall of the aorta, the superhighway of the circulatory system. Pressure from inside makes the aorta bulge at the weak spot, which tends to appear in the vicinity of the navel. Over time, the blood vessel balloons from its usual inch-wide diameter (about the size of a quarter) to double or triple that size. About 6% of older men and 1% of older women have an abdominal aortic aneurysm.

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