Brain Aneurysm Awareness Month: Spreading the word

September 22, 2017
A brain aneurysm (also called a cerebral aneurysm) is a blister-like bulge in a weak part of a blood vessel in your brain. It can go unnoticed for a long time. In fact, 1-6 percent of Americans have an aneurysm they don’t know about. If left untreated, however, the pressure of the blood causes that area of the wall of the blood vessels to become even weaker, which allows an aneurysm to grow. Eventually, the aneurysm may burst, which causes a stroke.

September is National Brain Aneurysm Awareness Month, and across the country, those affected by various forms of the disease raise awareness through fundraising and visibility events. Bringing a voice to the disease may seem daunting in a sea of awareness ribbons and weekend community walks – but Swedish had the opportunity to focus a spotlight on Seattle as host for the Brain Aneurysm Foundation’s Annual Symposium. 

This Massachusetts-based organization is the nation’s only not-for-profit organization solely dedicated to providing critical awareness, education, support and research funding to reduce the incidence of brain aneurysms. Swedish Neuroscience Institute physicians teamed up with other elite physicians from across the country and others in the medical community, in addition to volunteers and Brain Aneurysm Foundation members, to learn more about advances in research for the disease.

Sometimes a brain aneurysm is caused by conditions you cannot control, such as:

Family history: If two or more close relatives (parents, brothers or sisters, or children) have aneurysms, you may be at risk for a “familial aneurysm.” This type of an aneurysm tends to rupture while it is still small.

Birth defect: You may have been born with a defect in one of your blood vessels that allows an aneurysm to develop.

Gender: Women are more likely than men to develop a brain aneurysm.

Race: African-Americans are more susceptible to a brain aneurysm.

Disease, infection, circulatory disorder: Some genetic diseases and some types of infections and circulatory disorders may cause a brain aneurysm. Aneurysms that occur after an infection in the heart or blood vessels are called mycotic aneurysms.

Trauma: An accident with trauma to the head may cause a traumatic aneurysm, a rare type of aneurysm in an artery in the brain.

If you have any of these risk factors, you should talk with your doctor about your family and personal medical history, and ask about early detection screening.

There also are many risk factors you can control or manage with lifestyle changes. These include:

Smoking: If you smoke, STOP. Smoking has been associated with the formation, growth and increased rate of rupture of aneurysms.

Alcohol abuse: If you drink, only drink in moderation. If you have any genetic risk factors for an aneurysm, consider avoiding alcohol completely.

High blood pressure (hypertension): Help control your blood pressure through diet and exercise, and/or medication if your doctor recommends it.

Drug abuse: Avoid recreational drug use – especially cocaine.

If you are at risk for a brain aneurysm, make the necessary lifestyle changes and talk with your doctor about early screening. It is also important to know the signs and symptoms so you can get essential and timely treatment.