You are probably familiar with AAA, the automobile organization.

In the medical field, the acronym AAA, or Triple-A, refers to a bulge or balloon in the aortic artery, the largest artery in the abdominal area.

If this aneurysm ruptures, it can cause blood to seep into the abdominal cavity. If the condition is untreated, it can lead to death in a matter of minutes.

AAA may be triggered by one or more of the following factors:

  • Smoking. More than 90% of patients who develop AAA have smoked.
  • Men 65 years and older are most susceptible.
  • Alcohol consumption is associated with AAA, because of its effect on blood pressure.
  • Hypertension, which increases pressure on artery walls.
  • Atherosclerosis (hardening or thickening of the artery walls)
  • Genetic predisposition

Dr. Diego may diagnose AAA by physical examination, Ultrasound or CT (computerized tomography). Ultrasound can be used to screen for aneurysms and to determine their size. CT scans are accurate and may be used as well for presurgical evaluation. Other tests which are sometimes used include MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) and Angiography.

To avoid this serious condition, men are advised to have their blood pressure checked (or brought under control if it’s already been diagnosed); to quit smoking; to follow a low-fat diet; and to be tested by their doctor.

Screening is recommended for males between the ages of 65 and 75 with a history of smoking, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ Preventive Services Task Force. The test should be repeated for men who have an aortic dimension greater than 3 centimeters, says the Task Force.

AAA is the tenth leading cause of death in men over 55. (An aneurysm eventually killed Albert Einstein, five years he had surgery for AAA.) Researchers have made some progress in identifying a protein that may be involved with damage to blood vessels; thus it’s hoped that a pharmacological treatment may become available before too long.