The most common causes are untreated, chronic high blood pressure (hypertension) and atherosclerosis (hardening of arteries due to accumulation of cholesterol plaques). They cause the artery walls to become so stretched and weakened that they bulge outward, creating a ballooned area called an aneurysm.
Congenital conditions such as
Marfan syndrome and
bicuspid aortic valves may also weaken aortic walls, diminishing their ability to withstand the sheer forces of blood flowing through them.
Aneurysms tend to affect more men than women. People over the age of 65 and those with a heart condition or high blood pressure (hypertension) should also watch out for pains in the chest, head or abdomen, as these could be signs of an aneurysm.
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