A million Americans have a silent aneurysm in their abdominal aorta (AAA) that may become life-threatening over time.
The aorta is the largest artery in our body. It’s like a garden hose. It comes straight off the heart, plunges down through our abdomen and then splits off into each leg.
Our hearts beat about 40 million times a year and each heartbeat sends a wave of pressure down that hose, so it better be strong—flexible, elastic to deal with each pulse of blood pumped through it. But what if your aorta becomes stiffened with atherosclerosis, inflamed with oxidized cholesterol, clogged with fatty deposits?
This is what the inner lining of our aorta should look like, all smooth, pliable, rubbery. But with too much saturated fat in one's diet fatty streaks start to appear, which can lead to inflammation, ulceration, and calcification. The walls of our aorta can weaken, start stretching, bulging out, ballooning under all the pressure. And when balloons get too big, they can pop, and then you die.
The ballooning is called an abdominal aortic aneurism—a million Americans have them, but most don’t even know it. They can be like ticking time bombs, getting bigger and bigger, but you don’t feel it—until it bursts. So, the first and only symptom is usually, a painful death.
So that’s why the current recommendation is that the highest risk group, male smokers over the age of 65, get a sonogram to make sure they aren’t carrying around an aneurism in their abdomen. But more than half who get them don’t fall into that group—they’re women, or nonsmokers, or under 65, so there’s obviously major risk factors that we’re missing.
To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by MaryAnn Allison.
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For more context, check out the associated blog posts: Aortic aneurysm prevention: Jeff Green and his aorta, The Most Anti-Inflammatory Mushroom, Preventing and Treating Kidney Failure With Diet, Stool Size and Breast Cancer Risk