In people with high blood pressure or cholesterol abnormalities, enlarged or dilated aortas are fairly common, according to HealthCentral. Medical practitioners work with the patient to mitigate the factors leading to a weakened aorta. These preventative measures help slow or prevent the formation of aneurysms, which can lead to ruptured aneurysms.
Certain forces within the body contribute to aorta weakening and dilation. The main factors include elevated blood pressure along with other processes such as inflammation, nutritional deficiencies and lipoprotein deposition, explains HealthCentral. Other issues leading to dilated aortas include trauma or infection. When these factors are corrected or managed well, further enlargement may be prevented. Dilated aortas are prone to atherosclerotic plaque formation, which leads to an increased risk of stroke and mini-strokes, also called transient ischemic attacks.
One of the simplest methods of screening for an enlarged aorta is with an ultrasound or echocardiogram. The first few inches of the aorta can be easily seen and measured during this screening. When the aorta reaches 4.5 centimeters in diameter, it is classified as an aneurysm. Once an aorta enlarges or dilates to 3.7 centimeters or greater, it may continue to dilate at an average rate of 2 millimeters per year, states HealthCentral. Therefore, dilated aortas should be monitored yearly. Once an aneurysm reaches 5.5 centimeters, surgical intervention is required.