Aneurysms are a leading cause of sudden death. Around 25,000 to 30,000 people die from ruptured aneurysms in the US each year. In the UK, between 6,000 and 9,000 people die from aneurysms each year, according to the National Health Service. Men over 65 are the most likely persons to develop aneurysms.
An aneurysm is a time bomb, ticking away until it goes off. The statistics are sobering - an estimated 65 to 85 percent of people who suffer a ruptured aortic aneurysm will die, as will 50 percent of people with a ruptured intracranial aneurysm. But, unlike the more widely discussed stroke and heart attack, many people are unaware of aneurysms’ existence.
Just what is an aneurysm and how dangerous is it? Another frightening fact? No one really knows why some aneurysms rupture and some don’t. What can you do to help prevent aneurysm? Can you make changes to your lifestyle – to your diet and your stress levels – that can stop an aneurysm in its tracks?
What Is An Aneurysm?
An aneurysm is a bulge in a blood vessel, like a balloon, caused by the blood pressing against a weakened blood vessel wall. The two most common forms of aneurysm are intracranial aneurysm, or cerebral aneurysm, and aortic aneurysm. The intracranial aneurysm develops in the brain and the aortic aneurysm develops in the aorta, a major blood vessel that carries blood away from the heart.
A rupture occurs when the balloon grows too big and the blood vessel splits or bursts. A ruptured aneurysm can cause internal bleeding and damage to organs. If the aneurysm is in the brain the blood can cause brain damage. A ruptured aneurysm is quite rare - it's estimated that there's a less than 0.5 percent chance of an intracranial aneurysm rupturing, but nevertheless around 15,000 people every year in the United States die from a rupture. While experts are not exactly sure why some aneurysms rupture, size is believed to be a factor. An aneurysm larger than 2.15 inches is bad news.
What Are the Symptoms of Aneurysm?
Aneurysms are silent and deadly - often an unruptured aneurysm will produce no symptoms. An unruptured aortic aneurysm is sometimes signified by a vibration from your abdomen near the navel that is only noticeable if you touch it. Other symptoms include chronic back or abdominal pain or, in some cases, a stiff neck . In the case of aneurysm in your brain --called an intracranial aneurysm--- symptoms include
difficulty moving the eyes,
pain or paralysis of the muscles in the face,
You'll definitely feel the symptoms of a rupture. If an aortic aneurysm ruptures you will feel intense pain in your abdomen, dizziness or faintness, or shortness of breath. A ruptured intracranial aneurysm produces a sudden excruciating headache - the worst you've felt in your life - as well as blurred vision, slurred speech, confusion or loss of consciousness.
Who Is Most at Risk From Aneurysms?
While many people believe aneurysm is a male problem, studies show that women are almost as likely to suffer as men. One 2008 study from the University of Michigan Stroke Program found women had a 74 percent bigger chance than men of suffering a type of stroke related to a ruptured brain aneurysm. According to the Brain Aneurysm Foundation, women suffer from brain aneurysms at a ratio of 3:2 against men.
And while aneurysms often occur in older people, when the blood vessel walls are weaker and under more stress, aneurysm can also strike the young. According to the Brain Aneurysm Foundation, brain aneurysms are most prevalent in people aged 35 to 60 years old. Aneurysms can also occur in children.
What Can I Do to Prevent an Aneurysm?
While most aneurysms remain intact and cause no health problems, the high risk of fatality if an aneurysm does burst means it makes sense to stop it forming in the first place.
How can you help prevent an aneurysm? Experts know you are more at risk of an aneurysm if you suffer from a number of conditions, which may be interlinked. Risk factors for aneurysm include atherosclerosis - a hardening of the bloods vessels caused by high cholesterol - smoking, and high blood pressure.
If you have high blood pressure you are more likely to suffer an aneurysm because blood pumped through the vessels at high pressure is more likely to stretch and damage a weakened blood vessel wall. If you have a close relative - parent, brother or sister - who had an aortic aneurysm you have a 20 percent chance of developing it yourself, according to the UK's National Health Service. Cocaine abuse is a significant risk factor for developing a brain aneurysm.