Preventing an abdominal aortic aneurysm 

The best way to prevent getting an aneurysm, or reduce the risk of an aneurysm growing bigger and possibly rupturing, is to avoid anything that could damage your blood vessels.

This includes:

  • smoking
  • eating a high-fat diet
  • not exercising regularly
  • being overweight or obese

If your GP finds out you have high blood pressure or a high cholesterol level, you may be prescribed medication for both. This will reduce the risk of developing an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA).

Smoking

Smoking is a major risk factor for aneurysms because it causes atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and raises your blood pressure.

Tobacco smoke contains substances that can damage the walls of the arteries.

It is known that smokers are seven times more likely than non-smokers to develop an AAA. 

The more you smoke, the greater your risk. People who regularly smoke more than 20 cigarettes a day may have more than 10 times the risk of non-smokers.

If you want to stop smoking, your GP will be able to refer you to an NHS Stop Smoking Service, which will give you dedicated help and advice about the best ways to quit.

You can also call the NHS Smokefree helpline on 0800 022 4332. The specially trained helpline staff can offer you free expert advice and encouragement.

Read more about stopping smoking and nicotine replacement therapies (NRTs), which can make it easier to quit.

Diet

Eating a high-fat diet increases your risk of atherosclerosis.

It’s especially important to limit the amount of foods you eat that are high in saturated fat, such as biscuits, cakes, butter, sausages and bacon.

This is because eating too much saturated fat can lead to high cholesterol, which can build up in the artery walls.

Read more about high cholesterol. Find out more about healthy eating and how to reduce the amount of saturated fat you eat.

Exercise

Being active and doing regular exercise lowers blood pressure by keeping your heart and blood vessels in good condition.

Regular exercise can also help you lose weight, which will also help lower your blood pressure.

Adults should do at least 150 minutes (two hours and 30 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week.

Examples of moderate intensity activity include cycling or fast walking.

For it to count, the activity should make you feel warm and slightly out of breath. Someone who is overweight may only have to walk up a slope to get this feeling.

Physical activity can include anything from sport to walking and gardening.

Get more ideas on being active.

Weight

Being overweight forces your heart to work harder to pump blood around your body. This can raise your blood pressure, which in turn puts pressure on your arteries.

Use the BMI healthy weight calculator to find out if you need to lose weight.

If you need to shed some weight, it's worth remembering that losing just a few pounds will make a big difference to your blood pressure and overall health.

Get tips on losing weight safely and read more about preventing high blood pressure.




Abdominal aortic aneurysm: conservative management

Conservative management means you either choose not to have a planned operation, or the risk of an operation is too high because of other serious health problems. This video explains how to prevent an aneurysm from getting bigger without surgery.

Media last reviewed: 12/05/2016

Next review due: 12/05/2018

Stop smoking

Help with quitting, including what your GP can do, local services and nicotine replacement therapies

Page last reviewed: 30/08/2014

Next review due: 30/06/2017