How to Help Prevent Abdominal Aortic Aneurysms

How to Help Prevent Abdominal Aortic Aneurysms
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What dietary behaviors may cut the odds of developing of an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) in half?

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Researchers launched a study of more than three million people—by far the largest ever—to uncover what we can do, other than just not smoking, to reduce our risk of developing an abdominal aortic aneurysm in the first place. In terms of diet, apparently the riskiest thing we can do is eat meat.

Eating meat just a few times a month appears to significantly increase our risk, which makes sense. Another name for atherosclerosis is hardening of the arteries. That’s what all that cholesterol goop in our arteries can do—harden and stiffen the walls of our aorta, making it less pliable. And so instead of just bouncing right back after every heartbeat, our aorta is at risk for stretching, bit by bit over time, until eventually, we can end up with a balloon animal in our gut and then, sometimes, pop goes the weasel.

The most important thing, though: no smoking, which can dramatically increase our risk. Albert Einstein died of an abdominal aortic aneurysm—and he was a vegetarian. But he didn’t start eating healthy until late in his life, unfortunately, and he was a heavy smoker.

So, minimize both smoking and meat eating, and maximize fruit and vegetable consumption, and eat nuts every day—the two most powerful dietary behaviors found to reduce one’s risk. May cut our odds of developing an abdominal aortic aneurysm in half.

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.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Researchers launched a study of more than three million people—by far the largest ever—to uncover what we can do, other than just not smoking, to reduce our risk of developing an abdominal aortic aneurysm in the first place. In terms of diet, apparently the riskiest thing we can do is eat meat.

Eating meat just a few times a month appears to significantly increase our risk, which makes sense. Another name for atherosclerosis is hardening of the arteries. That’s what all that cholesterol goop in our arteries can do—harden and stiffen the walls of our aorta, making it less pliable. And so instead of just bouncing right back after every heartbeat, our aorta is at risk for stretching, bit by bit over time, until eventually, we can end up with a balloon animal in our gut and then, sometimes, pop goes the weasel.

The most important thing, though: no smoking, which can dramatically increase our risk. Albert Einstein died of an abdominal aortic aneurysm—and he was a vegetarian. But he didn’t start eating healthy until late in his life, unfortunately, and he was a heavy smoker.

So, minimize both smoking and meat eating, and maximize fruit and vegetable consumption, and eat nuts every day—the two most powerful dietary behaviors found to reduce one’s risk. May cut our odds of developing an abdominal aortic aneurysm in half.

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.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to CDC/Dr. Edwin P. Ewing, Jr., Bionerd, Ferdinand Schmutzer via Wikimedia Commons, and Jacqui Wise.

Doctor's Note

Be sure to check out my first video on abdominal aortic aneurysms: Abdominal Aortic Aneurysms: Ticking Time Balloons.  

For additional context, check out my associated blog posts: Aortic aneurysm prevention: Jeff Green and his aorta, and Stool Size and Breast Cancer Risk.

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

24 responses to “How to Help Prevent Abdominal Aortic Aneurysms

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  1. Be sure to check out this morning’s blog Aortic Aneurysm Prevention and yesterday’s “part 1” on abdominal aortic aneurysms in Ticking time balloons. Please feel free to post any ask-the-doctor type questions here in the comments section and I’d be happy to try to answer them. And there are 1,449 subjects covered in the rest of my videos–please feel free to explore them!

    And check out the associated blog post Aortic aneurysm prevention: Jeff Green and his aorta.




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    1. Thank you for posting about this. My mother died from this September of 2015. Smoking was the primary cause, but her diet compounded the problem. She was in ICU for three weeks as her organs shut down slowly. I watched as my mother essentially drown as her lungs hardened and filled with blood. It was horrific.
      I spent my entire adult life trying to get her to stop smoking and change her diet. She said her doctors told her it would “do no good”. That, itself, is heartbreaking.
      Please, if anyone here smokes, then stop now. Add more fruits and veggies in your diet, or, even better, cut out animal products completely.
      I do not want anyone to go through what my mother endured. It leaves the people who love you broken.




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    1. I uploaded the entire figure above in the Supplementary Info section, including the caption. Never hesitate to ask me to reproduce or blow-up any graphs or charts or anything featured in my videos. That’s what that Supplementary Info section is made for and I don’t use it enough!




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  2. Suppose you were a young adult male, who is highly athletic (exercises every day), has well diversified diet of fruits and vegetables (still eating meat though), would such a lifestyle have a nulling effect if that person were to also smoke cigars every week?
    From watching various videos on your website I have come to the conclusion that smoking(not inhaling, but consider a scenario of a cigarette smoker contrasted with a cigar smoker) wouldn’t be nearly as big problem as any potentially harmful effects would just be muted by the extremely healthy life style the person was living. Or am I wrong to suppose that?




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  3. Dr. Greger, could you say something about CoQ10, a coenzyme supposedly helpful in combating some diseases of the elder? Would you recommend it as a general supplement?




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  4. Dr. Greger, I think it is important to point out that in this study, as with most population-based dietary studies, the threshold for consumption of fruits and vegetables is often absurdly low. The benefit in the risk of AAAs was found for those consuming fruit, vegetable and nuts more than three times per week and all you had to do to get the 50% reduction was eat either daily! There is no way to know how much more benefit a vegetarian or vegan diet might provide.

    PS. I really enjoy your website and appreciate all the work you do to put it together




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    1. Well, that is not necessarily the case.  You have to compare them using the error bars. Good ole statistics.  If error bars overlap at all, we can be sure that they are not statistically significant from each other.  So although there is natural variation in the results, it isn’t more variation than expected by chance.  Although eating meat 2-4/x per mouth was not (statistically) different from eating fast food, the results do seem to show support that eating meat frequently has a negative health affect compared with the other food categories.




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  5. JUST DIAGNOSD WITH AORTIC ANUERYSM OF 1.3 CM . I ASSUME NO SMOKING.MINIMIZE MEAT,AD FRIED FOODS,EAT FRUIT AND VATBLES. HOW ABOUT MEDS OR HERBS? LARRY




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    1. 1.3 cm, WOW, you should feel really good! My doctor called me the other day and told me that he read my ultra-sound and mine is a tiny 5.5 cm. He wants to cut me open A.S.A.P. or sometime right after the first of the new year.




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      1. mine has been 4.4 for a while now or may even be larger now as the scan was inconclusive
        I would like to know what I can do naturally as my doctor wants to put me on beta blockers & I am against prescription drugs,well unless they are going to save my life anyway




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    1. You are amazing at detail! Perhaps there was no significance found? Seems like there should have been regarding fast food. Here is the study in full “whereas red meat and processed or fast food were associated with increased AAA prevalence, although this effect did not remain significant in multivariable analysis. “




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  6. Hey Doc,
    Is there any way to reduce the risk of aortic root aneurysms? Also are there any nutritional guidelines in helping with connective tissue disorders such as marfan’s syndrome?




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    1. I am a volunteer moderator and see you have not yet received any feedback on your question. Regarding marfan’s syndrome, please check out https://www.niams.nih.gov/health_info/marfan_syndrome/ which clarifies that patients diagnosed with marfan’s syndrome are more at risk of aneurysms. To reduce risk it makes sense to practice whole food plant based nutrition for optimal heart health. You may want to check out this video. http://nutritionfacts.org/video/how-to-help-prevent-abdominal-aortic-aneurysms/ because the science of why a healthy diet minmizes risk for abdominal aorta aneurysims is relevant. I hope that helps. Joan-NurseEducator




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  7. Wow shocked to see the reduction of cases eating fish!! Maybe was before Fukushima accident… Now I do not think that fish eaters will live long enough to experience this problem eating radioactive fish.




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  8. I came across this pdf on the web while looking for a way to reverse my father’s AAA. Since it’s Lent now i’ve managed to get my dad and mum on a vegan diet. I’m supplementing with b12 but not epa/dha. I’d like to supplement but I’m not sure if it would hurt him more. Is it ok to supplement epa/dha? I’ve noticed that my father feels abdominal pain a few hours after a meal with turmeric in it. How often should I give turmeric to him? I’m limiting it to only a few times a week.

    Here’s the pdf: http://www.curcumin.co.nz/pdf/Curcumin_May_Reverse_Aortic_Aneurysm.pdf

    Where do I post so that the doctor can look at articles?




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