According to HealthCentral, the artery that runs from the heart to supply blood to the rest of the body is the aorta. Many forces in the body cause the aorta to weaken, and as it weakens, it becomes enlarged. Enlarged aortas are fairly common, especially in people who have high blood pressure, are overweight, have abnormal cholesterol or smoke.
An enlarged aorta is usually detected during a heart ultrasound, or echocardiogram, says Dr. William Davis from HealthCentral. Defined as an aorta measuring 3.7 centimeters or greater, the condition is believed to advance at a rate of about 2 millimeters per year, or 1 centimeter every five years. Once the aorta measures 4.5 centimeters, it is classified as an aneurysm, defined as a balloon-like bulge in an artery by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Although usually asymptomatic, an aneurysm in the abdominal portion of the aorta sometimes causes throbbing in the abdomen, deep back pain or gnawing abdominal pain. Alternatively, an aneurysm in the chest may cause hoarseness, coughing, shortness of breath or jaw, neck, back or chest pain.
The greatest danger inherent in this condition is rupture of the aorta, which causes extremely rapid blood loss and is usually fatal, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. A second serious complication is aortic dissection, a condition in which the lining of the aorta tears away and allows blood to collect, or "dissect," along the tear, causing excruciating, sharp pain in the upper back that travels down into the chest or arms. This is also usually fatal if not treated right away.
Surgical repair is the most common treatment of an aortic aneurysm; however, lifestyle changes sometimes keep the condition temporarily under control. Dr. Davis recommends a low carbohydrate diet, vitamin D and vitamin C supplementation and Omega 3 fish oils to treat inflammation and aid in preventing the formation of plaque. Each individual should check with a healthcare provider for specific recommendations about care.