Health Living - A quick, painless check will keep you in the know

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Are you male and 65 plus? A quick and painless scan can tell you if you have an abdominal aortic aneurysm.

In Scotland it is estimated that one in every 20 men aged 65 and over has an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA).

Men are six times more likely to have an abdominal aortic aneurysm than women and the chance of having one increase with age.

The AAA Screening Programme was launched in the Western Isles in November 2012 and all men are invited to take part in AAA screening when they turn 65.

The test aims to find aneurysms before they burst, so that people can be offered treatment to prevent this.

Most people who have an aneurysm do not know they have one as they rarely cause any symptoms.

However, a ruptured, or burst, aneurysm leads to life threatening bleeding and can ultimately result in death.

An aneurysm occurs when the wall of the aorta - the largest blood vessel in your body which runs from your heart to your abdomen (your tummy) – becomes weak and as blood passes through the weakened blood vessel, the blood pressure causes it to bulge outwards or “balloon out”.

The test is a simple and pain free ultrasound scan of your abdomen to measure the width of your aorta and takes around 10-15 minutes.

The test is similar to the scan used during pregnancy to check how a baby is developing.

Your abdominal aorta is usually about 2cm wide, similar to the width of a garden hose. If you have an aneurysm, the width of your aorta will be larger.

You will receive your results straight away.

Most men will be told that they do not have an aneurysm and they will not require any further scans as it is very unlikely they will ever develop an aneurysm requiring treatment.

Men who are found to have small or medium sized aneurysms will be invited to have yearly or three-monthly ultrasound scans to monitor its size.

Large aneurysms are not common, but can very serious and may require surgery.

The best way to prevent getting an aneurysm, or reduce the risk of an aneurysm growing bigger and possible rupturing, is to avoid things that can damage your blood vessels smoking, such as smoking, eating a high-fat diet and not getting enough exercise.

Men are six times more likely to have an aneurysm than women.

A ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm is less common in women than in men however, women who have a close relative – a brother, sister or parent - who has, or has had, an abdominal aortic aneurysm should speak to their GP to discuss a referral.

Men aged 66 years and over who have not had AAA Screening can self-refer by contacting their GP or telephoning Raigmore Hospital on 01463 704067 and asking to be put through to the Radiology Department.

Photograph courtesy of NHS Forth Valley.