Aneurysms are an especially common condition with as many as one in fifty Americans living with an unruptured case. They occur when a blood vessel bulges, sometimes caused by a weakening of the vessel walls, by 50 percent or more. While many people have them, most don’t even know it because aneurysms often don’t present symptoms. In fact, many people will never know they have an aneurysm unless it ruptures or becomes severe enough that symptoms do occur, like visual impairments accompanying brain aneurysms. Should you experience a rupture, it can cause intense pain, loss of consciousness, or even a stroke.
With the worst-case scenarios being so severe, the importance of knowing your prevention and treatment options is critical. We’ve already covered ways you can scan for aneurysms and treatment options (as well as the accompanying Medicare coverage). This leaves prevention, both of aneurysms themselves and the possibility of ruptures, as the only solution we haven’t covered yet.
As we discussed in our article on aneurysms, we’re not entirely sure of their specific cause, because there are a few possibilities. Most concerning to some is that at least 20 percent of aneurysms are likely caused by inherited conditions or genetics, meaning that prevention can be very hard. Conditions like Marfan syndrome and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome can cause aneurysms, while a family history can also cause you to be predisposed. While there’s not a lot you can do about your genetics or any inherited conditions, you can help yourself by lowering your risk of developing an aneurysm through certain lifestyle changes.
Chief among these lifestyle and health choices is maintaining a healthy blood pressure. If an aneurysm is caused by arterial damage, one of the most common causes of this is high blood pressure. While it’s not an acute cause of aneurysms, the longer you have high blood pressure, the more that pressure can harm the walls of your arteries. Eventually, this can cause weak spots and bulges that become aneurysms. Luckily, there are a number of ways you can lower your blood pressure. Adjusting your diet is a great start since you have plenty of snacks and diets that are effective. Exercising and managing your stress levels can also lower your blood pressure.
Blood pressure isn’t the only way to lower your risk, though. Smoking is high on the list of risk factors that can lead to aneurysms, both in the abdomen and the brain. In fact, recent research showed that a group of smokers had four times the risk of developing a brain aneurysm than the group of nonsmokers. This is just another one of the many reasons to quit smoking.
Additionally, there are other causes of aneurysms that you can control, though notably these are things like avoiding severe head injuries and not abusing cocaine and other illegal substances. But, with the amount of uncontrollable causes like age and genetic predisposition, your chances of avoiding an aneurysm will never be 100 percent.
Since you can never completely prevent aneurysms, it’s important to know the next step — preventing a dangerous rupture. In other words, mitigating and learning to live with the risk. Unfortunately, we don’t know specifically what causes an aneurysm to rupture, though we do have an idea for what can increase the risk. If you know you have an aneurysm and you’re looking to try and prevent a rupture, your best bet is to focus on lowering your risk of developing an aneurysm in the first place.
The lifestyle and health choices that can increase your risk of an aneurysm lead to the same conditions that can cause a rupture. If the blood vessel is weakened by high blood pressure, sustained high blood pressure will only weaken it further. Eventually, this could, at the very least, increase the risk of the aneurysm rupturing. The same is true for smoking. By quitting smoking, you can stop further damage being done to your arteries.
The most effective way of preventing an aneurysm from rupturing is getting it treated. Treatment options for aneurysms range from prescription drugs to surgeries, all of which should be covered at least somewhat by Medicare. For prescription drugs, you may be prescribed medications to help control your blood pressure or lower your risk of developing life-threatening conditions that can follow a rupture. On the surgical side of things, your options will depend on where the aneurysm is located. If it’s in the chest, you may be given open chest repair or endovascular coiling. If located in the brain, you may recieve endovascular coiling or surgical clipping. To learn more about your treatment options, see our articles on Medicare’s coverage of aneurysm scans and treatment.
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The frustrating and scary aspects of aneurysms are the amount of unknowns and unpreventable causes. You can’t change the genes you’re born with, the health conditions you may develop, or stop yourself from aging. Even an entirely healthy person can develop an aneurysm. That’s why scans are important, and also why you should take steps to lower your risk of developing or worsening an aneurysm. It may not be full prevention, but it can make a difference!