What are risk factors for aortic disease?

Mark J. Russo, MD
Thoracic Surgery (Cardiothoracic Vascular)

Aortic disease tends to run in families. 15-25% of people with aortic aneurysms have a 1st degree relative (mother, father, brother, sister, son, or daughter) with history of aortic disease. Therefore, people with a strong family history of aortic disease or known connective tissue disease, such as Marfan's or Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, should be screened for aortic disease.
Other risk factors for aortic disease include: hypertension (aka high blood pressure), high cholesterol, diabetes, cigarette smoking, trauma, and inflammatory diseases of the aorta (aortitis).

Stephen R. Hazelrigg, MD
Thoracic Surgery (Cardiothoracic Vascular)
Aortic disease risk factors are mostly related to atherosclerosis and include hypertension (or high blood pressure), smoking, high cholesterol, and diabetes. A sedentary and stressful lifestyle may also increase your risk, although these two are probably not quite as important as the first ones listed. There is also a relatively rare genetic disorder that causes a weakening of the wall of the artery. In addition, vasculitis, an inflammatory disease of the vessels possibly caused by infection or an autoimmune disease, can cause a weakening of the artery and aortic disease.

The most common cause of aortic aneurysms is atherosclerosis, which weakens the wall of the aorta. However, the most common cause of aortic dissection is high blood pressure. Other risk factors associated with either type of aortic disease include:

  • cigarette smoking
  • trauma
  • inflammatory diseases of the aorta (aortitis)
  • inherited diseases, such as Marfan's or Ehlers-Danlos syndrome
  • a family history of aortic disease

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.