A Health Report on Aneurysm

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Beauty Turner, former Assistant Editor for Residents’ Journal, died on Dec. 18, 2008. Beauty’s family found her unconscious. They rushed her to the hospital, where the doctor told them that Beauty had slipped into a coma. An aneurysm had ruptured in her brain. This was later determined to be the cause of her death. Among her many causes, Beauty fought to keep health clinics open in Chicago’s low-income communities. She was known throughout the low-income community for her hard work and her determination as an activist. Beauty Turner will be missed, but the illness that took her life will take the lives of many more. To inform our readers so that they have an opportunity to lower their risk of developing an aneurysm, I spoke with Dr. Anand Karsan, a physician at Mercy Hospital. I asked him questions about aneurysms that will help our readers be aware of how serious it is to take care of their bodies.

QW: What is an aneurysm?
Dr. Karsan: An aneurysm is an abnormal dilation or “ballooning” in a blood vessel, such as an artery. It is often a result of some underlying defect, disease or injury. An artery is any blood vessel that takes blood away from the heart.

QW: Where in the body does an aneurysm occur? Dr. Karsan: An aneurysm can happen anywhere in the body. The most common locations are in the brain, in an area called the circle of Willis, and in the aorta, the major artery that transports blood away from the heart.

QW: What causes an aneurysm?
Dr. Karsan: The greatest risk factor for aneurysms is atherosclerosis, which is an accumulation of fat and cholesterol within the walls of blood vessels. Risk factors for atherosclerosis include age, usually greater than 50 years old, smoking, hypertension, which means elevated blood pressure, hyperlipidemia, which means high cholesterol, and diabetes. The more risk factors there are, the higher the probability to develop the disease. I should note that atherosclerosis is also a major risk factor for heart attacks. Some other common risk factors include connective tissue disorders such as Marfan’s disease, family history of aneurysm, and polycystic kidney disease. These are genetic disorders and are likely diagnosed at an earlier age.

QW: What are the signs one should look for that may alert them in time to see a doctor? Dr. Karsan: The following are the most common signs that an aneurysm has either ruptured (opened) or is rapidly enlarging along the vessel wall, which we call dissecting: – Chest pain, especially that which radiates to the back
– Syncope, or loss of consciousness.
– the worst headache of one’s life.
– a “thunderclap” headache, which is a sudden and severe headache.

QW: What precautions can be taken to avoid getting aneurysms?
Dr. Karsan: Take care of yourself. Eating healthy, exercising and not smoking are important to prevent any bad outcomes. It is also important to get proper yearly medical follow-up with a primary care physician. Early treatment of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and other medical problems mean a healthier you.

We at Residents’ Journal hope the information provided in this article will help raise awareness. If you have any questions concerning aneurysms or any other medical concerns, talk to your doctor. It may save you life.

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