Preventing a brain aneurysm

While not all the risk factors for aneurysms can be prevented, the two leading risk factors can.

These are:

  • smoking
  • high blood pressure


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.

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 Smoking 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 that you may have after quitting.

See Treatment for quitting smoking and Live Well: stop smoking for more information about giving up.

High blood pressure

High blood pressure can often be reduced by eating a healthy diet, moderating your alcohol intake, maintaining a healthy weight and doing regular exercise.


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 (for example, 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. You should aim to eat five 80g portions of fruit and vegetables every day.

Find out more about getting your 5 A Day.


Regularly drinking alcohol above what the NHS recommends will raise your blood pressure over time. Staying within the recommended levels 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 tipple, track your drinking over time and get tips on cutting down.

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 taking 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 (i.e. cycling or fast walking) every week. 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.

An aneurysm is a blood-filled sac that forms in a weakened part of a blood vessel.
Arteries are blood vessels that carry blood from the heart to the rest of the body.
Blood supplies oxygen to the body and removes carbon dioxide. It is pumped around the body by the heart.
Cholesterol is a fatty substance made by the body that lives in blood and tissue. It is used to make bile acid, hormones and vitamin D.
High blood pressure
Hypertension is when the pressure of the blood in your bloodstream is regularly above 140/90 mmHG.
Platelets are cells in the blood that control bleeding by plugging the broken blood vessel and helping the blood to clot.
A rupture is a break or tear in an organ or tissue.
Ultrasound scans are a way of producing pictures of inside the body using sound waves.

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