The widow of soccer journalist Grant Wahl revealed he died of an aortic aneurysm while covering the World Cup in Qatar.
During the quarterfinal match between Argentina and the Netherlands, the 49-year-old reportedly fell back in his seat before medical workers responded to him. His wife, Céline Gounder, an infectious disease specialist and epidemiologist at New York University, told CBS Mornings it was likely something brewing for years, and wrote in a note on Substack her husband experienced symptoms prior to his death.
“Grant died from the rupture of a slowly growing, undetected ascending aortic aneurysm with hemopericardium,” Gounder wrote. “No amount of CPR or shocks would have saved him.”
But what is an aortic aneurysm? And what causes them? Here’s what to know:
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What is aortic aneurysm?
An aortic aneurysm is a bulge that occurs in the wall of the aorta, a major blood vessel that carries blood from the heart to the rest of the body, Patrice Desvigne-Nickens, a medical officer at the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, told USA TODAY.
It can happen anywhere in the aorta.
There are two main types of aortic aneurysms: abdominal, through the abdomen, or thoracic, through the chest cavity.
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What is the cause of aortic aneurysm?
When the walls of aorta are weakened, the force of blood pushing against the weakened walls can build up into an aneurysm.
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is the “largest contributor” to the development of aneurisms, Desvigne-Nickens said. But she added that being aware of family history and other factors is “very important.”
“Knowing that there’s a risk and being vigilant and looking can be life saving,” she said.
Lifestyle choices like cigarette smoking and some drug stimulants can increase the risk of aortic aneurysm. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says smoking is behind 75% of all abdominal aortic aneurysms.
“From a vascular perspective (smoking) causes this inflammation, and nicotine causes some abnormal constriction of the vessels,” Desvigne-Nickens added.
She also said stress is “so important for cardiovascular health,” and it can trigger “inflammation that is unhealthy and can contribute to injury of weakened systems.”
Men are more likely to develop aortic aneurysms compared to women, and risk increases with age as it’s most common in adults over ages 65, the institute adds.
What are the symptoms or warning signs?
Aortic aneurysm may not cause any symptoms before they burst, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. But symptoms might include:
- Pain in the neck, jaw, back, chest, stomach or shoulder
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Swelling of face, neck or arms
- Lightheadedness or dizziness
- Trouble swallowing
- Loss of consciousness
Desvigne-Nickens said a person might experience “a sense of chest pain, there may be even a protrusion, a sense of fullness in the in the chest.”
Gounder wrote Wahl experienced chest pressure shortly before his death, which “may have represented the initial symptoms.”
How does aortic aneurysm cause death? Can a person survive aortic aneurysm?
Aortic aneurysms can be detected early on and can be monitored by health care providers, and in some cases, will never burst. Medicine or surgery can repair the aorta, depending on the size and location of the bulge.
Aortic aneurysms become deadly when a dissection – the force of blood pumping the walls split the layers of the aorta wall – happens, allowing blood to leak through, according to the CDC. Another deadly occurrence is a rupture, when the aneurysm completely bursts, causing internal bleeding. When either of these happen, emergency surgery is required to prevent death, the Mayo Clinic adds.
Over 9,900 people died of aortic aneurysms or aortic dissections in 2019, according to the CDC.
Follow Jordan Mendoza on Twitter: @jordan_mendoza5.
Story Credit: usatoday.com