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  Aneurysm / Weakened Arteries  
 
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Conditions that suggest it | Contributing risk factors | Other conditions that may be present | Recommendations

 

An aneurysm is the abnormal enlargement or bulging of an artery caused by damage to or weakness in the blood vessel wall. Although aneurysms can occur in any type of the body's blood vessels, they almost always form in an artery. Most aneurysms occur in the abdomen and the brain. Some of the different types of aneurysms include:

  • Abdominal / aortic - in an artery in the abdomen (mid-section) or closer to the heart
  • Cerebral - in an artery in the brain
  • Thoracic aortic - in an artery in the chest area
  • Peripheral - in the large arteries that run down the legs and behind the knees
Abdominal / Aortic Aneurysms
An abdominal aortic aneurysm is an enlargement of the lower part of the aorta that extends through the abdominal area. The aorta is the main blood vessel that carries blood from the heart to the rest of the body. An aortic aneurysm can rupture, causing life-threatening bleeding.

Causes of abdominal / aortic aneurysms include:
  • Hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis) weakens artery walls
  • High blood pressure (hypertension) speeds up damage to blood vessel walls
  • Disease, such as diabetes, syphilis and Marfan's syndrome or Turnerís Syndrome
  • Injury
  • Congenital defects, such as an inherited weakness in the blood vessel wall
  • Heredity
  • Nutritional: Low potassium and copper intake
Most people are unaware that they have an aneurysm because in most cases, there are no symptoms. However, a pulsating enlargement or tender mass may be felt by a physician when performing a physical examination or pain in the back, abdomen or groin may be mistaken for a kidney stone attack or a ruptured disc.

Conventional Treatment of Abdominal / Aortic Aneurysms
Small (less than 2 inches in diameter):
These rarely rupture and doctors usually prescribe blood pressure-lowering drugs. The patient's condition is also regularly monitored.
Large (more than 2 inches in diameter)
The aneurysm is surgically removed and that portion of the blood vessel is replaced with a flexible tube called a graft.

Cerebral Aneurysms
A brain aneurysm is a weak bulging spot in an artery of the brain. It resembles a small, thin balloon or a weak spot on a tire inner tube. Brain aneurysms are often the result of a congenital weakness (present at birth) in the muscle layer of the blood vessel wall. They may also be caused by infections, injury and nutritional deficiencies
.
A cerebral aneurysm may cause symptoms ranging from headaches, drowsiness, neck stiffness, nausea and vomiting to more severe symptoms such as mental confusion, vertigo (dizziness) and loss of consciousness.

A ruptured aneurysm is most often accompanied by a severe headache that demands medical attention. The doctor takes an X-ray of the area to determine the exact location of the aneurysm. This information determines the patient's treatment options. A ruptured aneurysm can lead to bleeding inside the head. Often, the aneurysm heals, bleeding stops and the patient survives. In more serious cases, the bleeding may cause brain damage with paralysis or coma. In the most severe cases, a ruptured cerebral aneurysm can lead to death.

Brain aneurysms can be detected by imaging tests such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computed axial tomography (CAT scans) and angiograms.

Conventional Treatment of Cerebral Aneurysms
Patients with cerebral aneurysm require intensive care and as little stress as possible. Once detected, most brain aneurysms can be repaired with microsurgery. This type of surgery is performed with the aid of an operating microscope and tiny instruments. During surgery, the aneurysm is identified and removed.
 

 
 

Conditions that suggest Aneurysm / Weakened Arteries:
 
 
Symptoms - Cardiovascular  Having possible/having an aneurysm

Counter-indicators:
  Absence of aneurysm
 
 

Risk factors for Aneurysm / Weakened Arteries:
 
 
Addictions  Alcohol-related Problems
 See the link between Smoke Damage and Aneurysm.

Circulation

  Hypertension
  Atherosclerosis
 Hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis) weakens artery walls and predisposes the damaged portion to enlargement.

Environment / Toxicity

  Cigarette Smoke Damage
 278 consecutive patients with aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage were compared with 314 hospitalized control patients. Regression analysis showed that recent alcohol intake and smoking were significant independent risk factors for hemorrhage. [Stroke 24: pp.639-46, 1993]

Studies have consistently found a 50% decrease in mortality from abdominal aortic aneurysms among former smokers compared with current smokers. [ Medical Clinics of North America, March 1992;76(2): pp.333-353]

Genetic

  Ehlers Danlos Syndrome

Infections

  Chronic / Hidden Infection
 Results of a small study suggest that an antibiotic may help people with abdominal aortic aneurysms. The condition is usually treatable only with surgery. The drug doxycycline appears to inhibit enzymes that play a role in weakening of the arterial walls. This is a medical problem that might be influenced by an impaired immune system which allows an infection to take hold. If doxycycline seems to help, then it is possible that either chlamydia or mycoplasma are involved. [Annual Meeting Society for Vascular Surgery meeting in Washington, DC June 1999 ]

Nutrients

  Hypokalemia / Potassium Need
 A low incidence of cerebrovascular disease was associated with geographical regions where fresh fruit and vegetable consumption (increased potassium) was high. It is possible that this association may also extend to aneurysms and subarachnoid hemorrhage in addition to stroke. [Low fruits and vegetables, high-meat diet increase cerebrovascular event risk. Medical Tribune March 10, 1997:26, N Engl J Med 316( 5): pp.235- 40, 1987, Lancet: pp.1191-3, 1983]

Increased potassium produces a reduction in aneurysms. Potassium is known to be the activator for several enzyme systems. Since only minute amounts are needed for most of them, there could never be a deficiency which would inactivate the majority of them. However, it may be that part of the weakened connective tissue is an indirect effect of a continuing potassium deficiency on the copper metabolism, especially as it pertains to the copper catalyzed enzyme lysyl oxidase.

  Copper Deficiency
 Copper deficiency can contribute to some cardiovascular risks. Aortic aneurysms may be a genetic condition related to a defect in the ability to store or absorb copper. Copper is a cofactor for lysyl oxidase, an enzyme that is responsible for the connective tissue integrity by crosslinking elastin. Elastin is the main material of several important organs, which include blood vessels, spinal discs, lungs, and skin. In theory if you have a family or personal history of aneurysms, consider taking 2-4mg of copper per day, especially if significant amounts of zinc have been or are being consumed.

Men are more susceptible to aneurysms than young women, probably because estrogen increases the efficiency of copper absorption. However, women can be affected by this problem after pregnancy, probably because women must give the liver of their unborn babies large copper stores in order for them to survive the low milk copper.
 
 

Aneurysm / Weakened Arteries suggests the following may be present:
 
 
Circulation  Hypertension
 
 

Recommendations for Aneurysm / Weakened Arteries:
 
 
Lab Tests/Rule-Outs  Test Copper Levels
  Test for Cardiac Risk Factors
 The authors of this study concluded that a high level of lipoprotein (a) is an independent risk factor for thoracic aortic atherosclerosis and should be controlled in order to prevent aortic disease including aortic aneurysm. [American Journal of Cardiology, July 15, 1993;72: pp.227-230 ]

Total cholesterol and triglycerides have also been associated with increased risk.

Mineral

  Copper
 If copper levels are low, supplemental copper should be taken for its connective tissue strengthening effect.

Vitamins

  Vitamin E
 In evaluating 83 patients, it was found that serum cholesterol and triglyceride levels were higher in patients with aortic occlusive and aneurysmal disease than in control organ donors. Vitamin E concentrations were highest in peripheral occlusive diseased tissue and as much as 3 times greater than in organ donors compared to patients with aortic occlusive disease and aneurysmal disease. Signs of lipid peroxidation were markedly elevated in all diseased arterial tissue compared to controls. These data supply evidence of altered vitamin E metabolism and free radical processes in the tissues of patients with various manifestations of atherosclerosis. [Atherosclerosis, 1996;126: pp.289-297]
 
 


KEY
Weak or unproven link
Strong or generally accepted link
Proven definite or direct link
Very strongly or absolutely counter-indicative
May do some good
Highly recommended







GLOSSARY

Aneurysm:  Localized enlargement of an artery.

Atherosclerosis:  Common form of arteriosclerosis associated with the formation of atheromas which are deposits of yellow plaques containing cholesterol, lipids, and lipophages within the intima and inner media of arteries. This results in a narrowing of the arteries, which reduces the blood and oxygen flow to the heart and brain as well as to other parts of the body and can lead to a heart attack, stroke, or loss of function or gangrene of other tissues.

Cardiovascular:  Pertaining to the heart and blood vessels.

CAT Scan:  (Computerized Axial Tomography scan). A scanning procedure using X-rays and a computer to detect abnormalities of the body's organs.

Chlamydia:  A sexually-transmitted disease that is often without symptoms. Some females experience a white vaginal discharge that resembles cottage cheese, a burning sensation when urinating, itching, and painful intercourse. A clear watery urethral discharge in the male probably is a chlamydia infection.

Cofactor:  A substance that acts with another substance to bring about certain effects, often a coenzyme.

Copper:  An essential mineral that is a component of several important enzymes in the body and is essential to good health. Copper is found in all body tissues. Copper deficiency leads to a variety of abnormalities, including anemia, skeletal defects, degeneration of the nervous system, reproductive failure, pronounced cardiovascular lesions, elevated blood cholesterol, impaired immunity and defects in the pigmentation and structure of hair. Copper is involved in iron incorporation into hemoglobin. It is also involved with vitamin C in the formation of collagen and the proper functioning in central nervous system. More than a dozen enzymes have been found to contain copper. The best studied are superoxide dismutase (SOD), cytochrome C oxidase, catalase, dopamine hydroxylase, uricase, tryptophan dioxygenase, lecithinase and other monoamine and diamine oxidases.

Diabetes Mellitus:  A disease with increased blood glucose levels due to lack or ineffectiveness of insulin. Diabetes is found in two forms; insulin-dependent diabetes (juvenile-onset) and non-insulin-dependent (adult-onset). Symptoms include increased thirst; increased urination; weight loss in spite of increased appetite; fatigue; nausea; vomiting; frequent infections including bladder, vaginal, and skin; blurred vision; impotence in men; bad breath; cessation of menses; diminished skin fullness. Other symptoms include bleeding gums; ear noise/buzzing; diarrhea; depression; confusion.

Elastin:  A protein that is similar to collagen and is the chief constituent of elastic fibers.

Enzymes:  Specific protein catalysts produced by the cells that are crucial in chemical reactions and in building up or synthesizing most compounds in the body. Each enzyme performs a specific function without itself being consumed. For example, the digestive enzyme amylase acts on carbohydrates in foods to break them down.

Estrogen:  One of the female sex hormones produced by the ovaries.

Hemorrhage:  Profuse blood flow.

Hypertension:  High blood pressure. Hypertension increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, and kidney failure because it adds to the workload of the heart, causing it to enlarge and, over time, to weaken; in addition, it may damage the walls of the arteries.

Immune System:  A complex that protects the body from disease organisms and other foreign bodies. The system includes the humoral immune response and the cell-mediated response. The immune system also protects the body from invasion by making local barriers and inflammation.

Kidney Stone:  A stone (concretion) in the kidney. If the stone is large enough to block the tube (ureter) and stop the flow of urine from the kidney, it must be removed by surgery or other methods. Also called Renal Calculus. Symptoms usually begin with intense waves of pain as a stone moves in the urinary tract. Typically, a person feels a sharp, cramping pain in the back and side in the area of the kidney or in the lower abdomen. Sometimes nausea and vomiting occur. Later, pain may spread to the groin. The pain may continue if the stone is too large to pass; blood may appear in the urine and there may be the need to urinate more often or a burning sensation during urination. If fever and chills accompany any of these symptoms, an infection may be present and a doctor should be seen immediately.

Metabolism:  The chemical processes of living cells in which energy is produced in order to replace and repair tissues and maintain a healthy body. Responsible for the production of energy, biosynthesis of important substances, and degradation of various compounds.

Milligram:  (mg): 1/1,000 of a gram by weight.

MRI:  Magnetic Resonance Imaging. A technique used in diagnosis that combines radio waves and magnetic forces to produce detailed images of the internal structures of the body.

Nausea:  Symptoms resulting from an inclination to vomit.

Potassium:  A mineral that serves as an electrolyte and is involved in the balance of fluid within the body. Our bodies contain more than twice as much potassium as sodium (typically 9oz versus 4oz). About 98% of total body potassium is inside our cells. Potassium is the principal cation (positive ion) of the fluid within cells and is important in controlling the activity of the heart, muscles, nervous system and just about every cell in the body. Potassium regulates the water balance and acid-base balance in the blood and tissues. Evidence is showing that potassium is also involved in bone calcification. Potassium is a cofactor in many reactions, especially those involving energy production and muscle building.

Stroke:  A sudden loss of brain function caused by a blockage or rupture of a blood vessel that supplies the brain, characterized by loss of muscular control, complete or partial loss of sensation or consciousness, dizziness, slurred speech, or other symptoms that vary with the extent and severity of the damage to the brain. The most common manifestation is some degree of paralysis, but small strokes may occur without symptoms. Usually caused by arteriosclerosis, it often results in brain damage.

Syphilis:  A sexually-transmitted disease, with symptoms in the early contagious stages being a sore on the genitalia, a rash, patches of flaking tissue, fever, a sore throat, and sores in the mouth or anus.

Vertigo:  The sensation of spinning or whirling; a state in which you or your surroundings seem to whirl dizzily.

Zinc:  An essential trace mineral. The functions of zinc are enzymatic. There are over 70 metalloenzymes known to require zinc for their functions. The main biochemicals in which zinc has been found to be necessary include: enzymes and enzymatic function, protein synthesis and carbohydrate metabolism. Zinc is a constituent of insulin and male reproductive fluid. Zinc is necessary for the proper metabolism of alcohol, to get rid of the lactic acid that builds up in working muscles and to transfer it to the lungs. Zinc is involved in the health of the immune system, assists vitamin A utilization and is involved in the formation of bone and teeth.