Cardiovascular Risk Factors Lead to Higher Lifetime Risk of Aortic Aneurysm, Study Finds

Abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) is a vascular disease found in adults. It involves the enlargement of the aorta, the main blood vessel delivering blood throughout the body, at the abdomen.

The University of Minnesota School of Public Health analyzed data from a 24-year ARIC study to determine risk factors associated with AAA. It is the first study to report the AAA lifetime risk in a community-based cohort with long-term follow-up.

Weihong Tang, Ph.D., M.S., M.D., an associate professor in the School of Public Health, analyzed data to examine midlife cardiovascular risk factors and their association with a higher lifetime risk of abdominal aortic aneurysm.

The study quantified AAA incidence and lifetime risk by race, gender and longitudinal smoking status. The study found that 1 in 17 people in the general public are at risk for the disease, and current smokers are at a higher lifetime risk of the disease. Smoking cessation reduced lifetime risk of AAA.

Tang and her team also found that white race, male gender, greater height and elevated LDL, or total cholesterol, were associated with increased risk of AAA.

Tang added that the lifetime risk of the disease for female current smokers is not far behind that of males.

These findings could make an impact on clinical care and health policy.

“Physicians need to start paying similar attention to the risk factors for this disease in women. They should be monitoring female current smokers for the occurrence of AAA as they do in male ever smokers after they pass middle age,” said Tang.

The next step, according to Tang, is to identify additional risk factors that predispose AAA to rupture, and to search for novel biomarkers of the disease.