Can Exercise Lower Risk of Aortic Aneurysm?

Does exercise have the potential to lower one’s risk of developing an aortic aneurysm? I consulted with Dr. Moji Gashti, Chief, Division of Vascular Surgery, Department of Surgery, Union Memorial Hospital, Baltimore, MD.

At, I have read about athletes being diagnosed with thoracic aortic aneurysm – these are people in their 20s to 50s who have led active lives, including jogging or cycling, and lifting weights.

They are then diagnosed with a thoracic aortic aneurysm – a bulge or dilation in the aorta – as a result of an imaging test that was performed for an unrelated reason.

Nevertheless, can exercise actually help lower the risk of ever getting an aortic aneurysm in the first place?

Dr. Gashti explains, “It is well-established that because exercise increases shear stress and promotes removal of lipid (fat) molecules from the luminal surface of the aorta – by increasing nitric oxide and prostacyclin (fat molecule) release – that it both directly and indirectly inhibits atherosclerotic processes and helps in both reducing one’s systemic blood pressure and risk of developing aneurysms.”

Atherosclerotic processes refer to progressive plaque buildup in the arteries – in this case, coronary.

What kind of exercise is most useful in lowering the risk of developing an aortic aneurysm? This question mostly applies to people who do not have genetically predisposing conditions to aortic aneurysm, such as Marfan’s syndrome.

First of all, realize that cites that two risk factors for aortic aneurysm are high blood pressure and atherosclerosis. Plaque buildup damages the inner lining of blood vessels.

By preventing these two variables (high blood pressure and plaque buildup) from occurring, this will reduce a person’s risk of developing an aortic aneurysm. What better way to control these variables than to exercise?

The issue then become what is the best type of exercise. It certainly isn’t heavy weight lifting, because this spikes blood pressure. In people with normal aortic size and dimension, there are no restrictions with weight lifting workouts.

However, this doesn’t mean that exercise involving weight lifting will lower the risk of aortic aneurysm. The best exercise is cardio . This kind of exercise, of course, comes in many styles. I’m a certified personal trainer.

For healthy individuals, the best kind of cardio exercise for any goal – be it lowering the risk of aortic aneurysm, improving heart rate recovery, improving stamina or losing fat – is high intensity interval training.


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