Preventing an abdominal aortic aneurysm

Reducing your risk of atherosclerosis will help to prevent an abdominal aortic aneurysm occurring.


One of the leading causes of atherosclerosis is eating a diet that’s high in fat.

High-fat foods can cause a build-up of fatty plaques in your arteries. This is because fatty foods contain cholesterol. There are two main types of cholesterol:

  • Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) – this is mostly made up of fat, plus a small amount of protein. This type of cholesterol can block your arteries, so it’s often referred to as bad cholesterol.
  • High-density lipoprotein (HDL) – this is mostly made up of protein, plus a small amount of fat. This type of cholesterol can reduce any blockage in your arteries, so it’s often referred to as good cholesterol.

There are also two types of fat: saturated and unsaturated. Avoid food containing saturated fats because these will increase the levels of bad cholesterol in your blood.

Foods high in saturated fat include:

  • meat pies
  • sausages and fatty cuts of meat
  • butter
  • ghee (a type of butter often used in Indian cooking)
  • lard
  • cream
  • hard cheese
  • cakes and biscuits
  • foods that contain coconut or palm oil

However, eating a small amount of unsaturated fat will increase the level of good cholesterol and reduce any blockage.

Foods that are high in unsaturated fat include:

  • oily fish
  • avocados
  • nuts and seeds
  • sunflower, rapeseed and olive oil

Read more about healthy eating and find out the facts about fat.


Smoking is a major risk factor for aneurysms because it causes atherosclerosis and raises your blood pressure. There may also be harmful substances in tobacco smoke that could damage the walls of the arteries.

It is known that smokers are seven times more likely than non-smokers to develop an aortic aneurysm.

If you decide to stop smoking, your GP will be able to refer you to an NHS Stop Smoking Service, which will give you dedicated help and advice about the best ways to give up smoking. You can also call the NHS Smokefree helpline on 0800 022 4332. The specially trained helpline staff can offer you free expert advice and encouragement.

If you’re committed to giving up smoking but don’t want to be referred to a stop-smoking service, your GP should be able to prescribe medical treatment to help with any withdrawal symptoms you may have after quitting.

Find out about treatment for quitting smoking and get tips to help you stop smoking.

High blood pressure

High blood pressure can often be reduced by eating a healthy diet, cutting down on alcohol, maintaining a healthy weight and doing regular exercise.


The advice on diet above also applies if you have high blood pressure. In addition, cut down on the amount of salt in your food and eat plenty of fruit and vegetables.

Salt raises your blood pressure. The more salt you eat, the higher your blood pressure. Aim to eat less than less than 6g (0.2oz) of salt a day – about a teaspoonful. Find out more about how to cut down on salt.

Eating a low-fat diet that includes lots of fibre (such as wholegrain rice, bread and pasta) and plenty of fruit and vegetables has been proven to help lower blood pressure. Fruit and vegetables are full of vitamins, minerals and fibre to keep your body in good condition. Aim to eat five portions of fruit and vegetables every day. Find out more about getting your 5 a day.


Regularly drinking more alcohol than is recommended will raise your blood pressure over time. Drinking within the recommended limits is the best way to reduce your risk of developing high blood pressure.

The NHS recommends:

  • men shouldn’t regularly drink more than 3–4 units a day
  • women shouldn’t regularly drink more than 2–3 units a day

Find out how many units are in your favourite drinktrack your drinking over time and get tips to help you cut down on alcohol.

Alcohol is also high in calories, which will make you gain weight. This will also increase your blood pressure. Find out how many calories are in popular drinks.


Being overweight forces your heart to work harder to pump blood around your body, which can raise your blood pressure. Use the BMI healthy weight calculator to find out if you need to lose weight.

If you need to shed some weight, it’s worth remembering that losing just a few pounds will make a big difference to your blood pressure and overall health. Get tips on losing weight safely.


Being active and doing regular exercise lowers blood pressure by keeping your heart and blood vessels in good condition. Regular exercise can also help you lose weight, which will also help lower your blood pressure.

Adults should do at least 150 minutes (two hours and 30 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week. Examples of moderate intensity activity include cycling or fast walking. For it to count, the activity should make you feel warm and slightly out of breath. Someone who is overweight may only have to walk up a slope to get this feeling.

Physical activity can include anything from sport to walking and gardening. Get more ideas on being active.

Read more about preventing high blood pressure.

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