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6 Ways to Lower Your Risk of a Brain Aneurysm

April 23, 2024

It may seem impossible to prepare for — or prevent — something life-threatening like an aneurysm.

But there are actually several ways to lower your risk of a brain aneurysm, says Daniel Cavalcanti, MD, a neurosurgeon with the Hartford HealthCare Ayer Neuroscience Institute.

Here’s what you need to know.

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Aneurysm is a bubble on a blood vessel in the brain.

When a section of a blood vessel in the brain weakens or thins, it can swell and form a bubble. This usually happens because of the pressure of the blood flowing through it.

“There are usually no symptoms of this unless it ruptures,” Dr. Cavalcanti explains.

When an aneurysm ruptures, it can trigger symptoms like:

  • Severe headache
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Loss of consciousness

If an aneurysm bursts, patients need emergency treatment quickly to prevent a stroke.

Related: 3 Surprising Signs of a Stroke You Should Know

The biggest risk factor is your family history.

The number one risk factor for brain aneurysms isn’t necessarily one you can prevent.

“Family history is a big risk factor indeed – 22% of those who have one have strong family history,” Dr. Cavalcanti says of the condition, which affects about 30,000 Americans each year.

For those at highest risk, regular screening may be necessary.

“When someone has two or more family members who have had a brain aneurysm, we do some sort of surveillance.”

The most common ways to screen other family members is with vascular imaging of the brain. Identifying an unruptured aneurysm ahead of time allows for treatment before it ruptures, Dr. Cavalcanti says.

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But your lifestyle also has an impact.

Everyone — especially those who have a family history — can help prevent their risk of a brain aneurysm through lifestyle choice, says Dr. Cavalcanti.

That includes:

  1. Controlling your blood pressure. When you have high blood pressure, it can damage the walls of your arteries, which in turn increases the risk of forming an aneurysm or having an aneurysm rupture.
  2. Eating a healthy diet, especially cutting down on salt intake. A healthy diet can positively impact your blood pressure, inflammation, cholesterol and weight, all of which raise your risk of an aneurysm.
  3. Quitting smoking. Smoking (and second-hand smoke) damage blood vessels, making an aneurysm more likely to develop.
  4. Moderating your alcohol intake. Alcohol consumption can have negative impact on your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. It can also cause inflammation, which weakens the walls of the arteries.
  5. Treating sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea is connected to progression of aneurysms and poor outcomes.
  6. Managing stress. Reducing stress has been shown to promote good vascular health.