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Attention Smokers: Talk To Your Doctor About Screening For AAA

If you are a man age 65 to 75 and have ever smoked, talk with your doctor about abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA). Your doctor may suggest that you be screened with an ultrasound test to check for AAA.

Aneurysms usually grow slowly without any symptoms. If they grow large enough to burst, aneurysms can cause dangerous bleeding and death. If AAA is found early, it can be treated to stop it from bursting.

What is AAA?

The aorta is the main blood vessel (artery) in your body. It brings blood to your pelvis, abdomen, and legs. If the wall of an artery is weak, the artery can swell like a balloon. This is called an aneurysm. AAA occurs in the part of the aorta running through the abdomen.

Am I at risk for AAA?

The risk of AAA increases as you get older, and it's more likely to happen in people between the ages of 60 and 80. Men are much more likely than women to have an AAA. You are 8 times more likely to develop an aneurysm if you smoke.

Other risk factors for AAA include:

  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Emphysema
  • Family history of aortic aneurysm or heart disease

Take Action!

Talk with your doctor about your risk for AAA. Here are some questions you might want to ask your doctor:

  • What are my blood pressure numbers and cholesterol levels? What should they be? If they are too high, what can I do to get them lower?
  • Do I need to lose weight to reduce my risk for AAA?
  • How can I find help to quit smoking?

Make Changes to Lower Your Risk for AAA

To keep your blood vessels healthy and reduce your risk of AAA:

  • Get regular physical activity. Aim for 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate aerobic activity a week. Do strengthening activities 2 days a week.
  • Control high blood pressure. Getting active, watching your weight, and eating less salt can help you control your blood pressure. If you take medicine for your blood pressure, make sure you take it correctly.
  • Control high cholesterol. Start by adopting a heart-healthy eating plan. This means eating foods low in saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol.
  • Quit smoking. If you smoke, now is the time to quit. Quitting will help lower your risk of AAA.

Above content provided by the US Department of Health & Human Services in partnership with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.

Posted September 2010

Contact Information

Call 1-800-667-5356. Representatives are available to assist you live 8:30 a.m. - 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Contact Information

Vascular and Endovascular Surgery
Division of the CardioVascular Institute
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
West Campus, Lowry Medical Office Building
110 Francis Street, Suite 5B
Boston, MA 02215