An abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) is a condition that affects millions of Americans every year. It occurs when a bulge develops in the wall of the aorta in the abdomen. Today, our experts at Shaheen Vascular in Mountain View, CA are looking more closely at AAA, including what you should avoid if you have been diagnosed with the condition. Note that the same restrictions apply if you are diagnosed with a thoracic aortic aneurysm (TAA).
TAA is similar to AAA in that there is a bulge inside the wall of the aorta. The primary difference is that the aorta running through the chest is affected rather than the aorta running through the abdomen. If you are experiencing such symptoms as abdominal or back pain or a pulse near your navel, you may have AAA. Chest pain, hoarseness, and dyspnea may occur if you suffer from TAA. Read on to learn everything you need to know about these conditions.
What Should You Avoid if You Have an Aortic Aneurysm?
If you have an aortic aneurysm, regardless of whether it is abdominal or thoracic, it will behoove you to avoid stress as much as possible. Emotional stress and anxiety can increase your blood pressure. Elevated blood pressure results in more pressure exerted onto the aneurysm. Chronic hypertension can eventually lead to the aneurysm bursting.
It is also important that you avoid other things that can increase your blood pressure, like tobacco consumption and excessive alcohol consumption. Similarly, vigorous aerobic activity and lifting heavy weights should be avoided.
How Is This Condition Treated?
There are several treatment methods that may benefit you if you have been diagnosed with AAA or TAA. In some cases, an open aneurysm repair may be advisable. This procedure involves opening the affected area under a local anesthetic and inserting a graft to replace the damaged section of the aorta.
An EVAR (endovascular aneurysm repair or endovascular stent graft) is a minimally invasive procedure that uses catheters and a stent graft to repair the damaged aorta. In the case of this procedure, the graft is inserted into an artery and pushed through until it reaches the damaged section of the aorta. Then, it is expanded and attached to the blood vessel so blood can flow without applying excess pressure on the aneurysm, mitigating the risk of a burst.
How Should I Prepare for an Open Aneurysm Repair?
We will advise you on all of the required preparation steps during your initial consultation. One of the most important preparation steps you need to take is to make sure you have a ride home after surgery. Even though local anesthesia won’t make you as groggy and drowsy as general anesthesia, it can still impair your reaction time. Therefore, it is not safe for you to operate heavy machinery, including an automobile, for 24 hours after surgery.
Another very important preparation step to take prior to surgery is to advise us on every drug and supplement you currently take or have taken recently. For your safety, you may not consume any blood-thinning drugs or supplements for two weeks pre-op. If you are currently on blood-thinners, MAOIs, or other substances that affect blood viscosity, we will need to schedule your surgery for at least 14 days out.
What Should I Expect During the Recovery Period?
You can expect your recovery period to be relatively short and sweet, especially if you have a solid support system available to help you care for yourself. You should not be surprised if you feel unusually tired for a week or two. During this time, you should not worry about maintaining your usual routine. For example, you shouldn’t worry about waking up early to feed your pets or make sure your kids’ backpacks are packed for school.
You also shouldn’t worry about maintaining your usual exercise routine. You should avoid anaerobic activity, especially if it involves lifting heavy weights. You also should take care to keep any aerobic exercise you get at a moderate intensity. If your pulse gets too high, your blood pressure can increase to the point that your recovery process is affected negatively. Walking and gentle yoga are good exercise options to consider.
What Complications May Arise If This Condition Isn’t Treated?
Aortic dissection or rupture can occur if TAA or AAA is not treated. In the case of aortic dissection, a tear occurs between the layers of the wall aortic wall. In the case of a rupture, potentially life-threatening severe internal bleeding. If you suspect you suffer from an AAA or TAA, it is crucial that you have a medical professional diagnose you and advise you on a treatment plan. Only two out of 10 people survive a ruptured AAA.
Other complications of leaving this condition untreated are aortic regurgitation and blood clots. Aortic regurgitation, otherwise known as a leaky aortic valve, can occur when an aneurysm affects the ascending aorta just above the aortic valve. In the case of severe aortic dilation, such symptoms as heart failure, cardiac arrhythmias, palpitations, and shortness of breath can occur. Blood clots can also be fatal if they embolize and travel to the lung or another vital organ.
When Should I See a Doctor?
You should schedule an appointment with a medical professional if you suspect you suffer from an AAA or TAA. You should call or text 911 right away if you suspect you have an aneurysm in your aorta that has ruptured. Some of the most common symptoms of a ruptured aneurysm in the aorta include:
- Sudden abdominal pain
- Sudden back pain
- Sweaty skin
- Clammy skin
- Rapid pulse
- Loss of consciousness
- Pain spreading to your pelvis
- Pain spreading to your legs
- Pain spreading to your buttocks
What Causes This Condition?
AAA and TAA are often idiopathic. In other words, the cause of the condition cannot be identified. However, there have been cases of AAA and TAA with known causes. For example, it is known that Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, Marfan syndrome, and other genetic conditions that affect connective tissue can cause an aneurysm in the abdominal or thoracic aorta. This is why your family medical history can increase your risk of developing the condition.
It is also known that arterial inflammation and atherosclerosis (arterial narrowing) can lead to the development of an aortic aneurysm. Aortic injuries and certain infections, like syphilis, also increase the risk of aortic swelling.
What Are the Risk Factors for Developing This Condition?
Three of the most common risk factors for developing AAA or TAA are being over the age of 65, having a Y chromosome, and having a family history of the condition. However, there are risk factors that are controllable, like smoking and having hypertension. Regardless of your personal risk, you should strongly consider taking steps to mitigate the risk of developing AAA or TAA, especially if you’ve had the condition in the past.
How Can I Mitigate the Risk of Developing This Condition?
There are a number of effective steps you can take to mitigate the risk of developing AAA or TAA. For example, you should refrain from using tobacco products and do your best to avoid secondhand smoke. Even secondhand exposure to nicotine can increase your blood pressure. You can also mitigate your risk of developing this condition by improving your diet. You should focus on eating:
- Lots of fruits
- Lots of vegetables
- Whole grains rather than processed grains
- Lean fish
- Low-fat dairy
- Minimal salt
- Minimal trans fats
- Minimal saturated fats
You should also talk to a doctor if you have a family history of high cholesterol or blood pressure. You may suffer from high cholesterol or hypertension and not know it. If your cholesterol or blood pressure levels are out of control, you may need to take prescription medications to regulate them until you can improve them with your diet and lifestyle. Getting at least 2.5 hours of moderate aerobic exercise weekly will also mitigate your risk of developing this condition.
Schedule an Evaluation Today
If you have been diagnosed with an abdominal aortic aneurysm, there are a number of things you should avoid. Chief among them are stress and smoking. However, you should also avoid other things that cause increased blood pressure, like heavy lifting and vigorous aerobic exercise. For more information on AAA, contact us today at Shaheen Vascular in Mountain View, CA to schedule an evaluation. We also have a conveniently located office in Monterey, CA.