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All about abdominal aortic aneurysms

Abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA), a condition that affects men much more than women, occurs when the aorta, the largest blood vessel in the body, becomes enlarged or balloons outward.

While no one knows for sure why this happens, many of the same risk factors for heart disease seem to increase your risk for AAA. These include smoking, having high blood pressure or high cholesterol and being obese. Should an AAA rupture, it can cause life-threatening bleeding. Treatment is geared toward preventing that from happening, and your healthcare provider may recommend a watchful-waiting approach or surgery, depending on the size of your aneurysm and whether it’s causing any symptoms.

Because AAA often has no symptoms, any man over age 65 who has ever smoked should have at least one ultrasound screening. In fact, Medicare will pay for a one-time ultrasound for men who’ve enrolled in the Medicare program within the past six months, who smoke or have smoked or have a family history of the condition. Visit www.medicare.gov/Health/AAA.asp for more information.