Quick Facts:

  • The aorta is the main blood vessel carrying blood from the heart to the rest of the body.
  • An aortic aneurysm is a widening, bulge, or ballooning of a portion of the aorta.
  • An aortic dissection is a tear between the layers of the aorta, which can cause an aneurysm or rupture.
  • Approximately 10,000 people experience aortic dissections annually.
  • Fast, accurate diagnosis of dissection is imperative: 50% of patients with undiagnosed aortic dissection die within 48 hours, a death rate of approximately 1% per hour.

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Managing your risk

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Day-to-day management – including routine treatment and attention to physical activity guidelines – is a powerful way to safeguard your health and maintain your quality of life when you are at risk for aortic aneurysm or dissection. Here are some things you should do day-to-day to help manage your risk.

Know your family history

  • A personal or family history of thoracic aortic disease is one of the most important risk factors for aortic dissection. If you or a family member is living with an aneurysm or if you have a family member who has had an aortic dissection, you are at an increased risk for thoracic aortic dissection. You and your other family members should be evaluated to determine if a predisposition for aortic aneurysm and dissection exists in the family.

Routine medical care

  • It is very important to control high blood pressure and high cholesterol, to quit smoking (if you do), and take other measures to reduce your risk for heart disease.
  • Take medications as prescribed by your doctor to reduce stress on your aorta.
  • Have an echocardiogram (echo) or other imaging study at least once a year. Your doctor may want you to have more frequent echos (every three to six months) to make sure your aorta is growing very little or not at all.
  • Talk with your healthcare team if your child has an aortic aneurysm, bicuspid aortic valve, features of Marfan syndrome or another connective tissue disorder, Turner syndrome, or mutation in a gene which predisposes to familial thoracic aortic aneurysms/dissections. Sometimes doctors suggest medication for very young children.
  • If you have a thoracic aneurysm or one of the risk factors listed above, let your doctor know if you are, or plan to become, pregnant. There are special risks and treatments for pregnant women who have an aortic aneurysm, bicuspid aortic valve, connective tissue disorder, Turner syndrome, or mutation in a gene that predisposes to familial thoracic aortic aneurysms/dissections.

Lifestyle changes

  •  Do not put extra stress on your aorta. You should only do gentle exercise, such as walking rather than jogging or riding your bicycle slowly rather than racing.
  •  Do not play basketball, football, soccer, or other contact or competitive sports.
  •  Make sure that your job does not require any heavy lifting.
  •  Avoid isometric exercises.
  •  Some people may require additional activity restrictions, so it is important to consult your cardiologist for individual