DR. STEVEN REISMAN, A NEW YORK CITY CARDIOLOGIST, DISCUSSES AORTIC DISSECTION SAID TO BE THE CAUSE OF RICHARD HOLBROOKE’S DEATH
Aortic dissection, a medical emergency, occurs when there is a tear in the inner layer of the aorta. The aorta is the major blood vessel that carries blood from the heart to the rest of the body. Blood rushes into this tear causing the inner and middle layers to separate or “dissect”. When blood also breaks through the outer aortic wall this is usually fatal.
Symptoms of aortic dissection may be similar to that of other heart problems. It may cause sudden chest or upper back pain but may also cause other symptoms such as loss of consciousness, shortness of breath, and symptoms of stroke. Men have aortic dissection more frequently than women. The most common age is between 50 to 70 years old. If any of these symptoms occur suddenly, one should seek urgent medical attention or call for emergency medical assistance.
The most important feature of preventing aortic dissection is control of high blood pressure at an early age. High blood pressure is implicated in two-thirds of these cases. To reduce your risk it is also important to stop smoking if you smoke. It is also recommended to follow a low salt diet and exercise regularly. Certain congenital conditions and pre-existing aortic abnormalities predispose to aortic dissection.
Dr. Steven Reisman, Director of the New York Cardiac Diagnostic Center, advises patients to be aggressive about the diagnosis of hypertension (high blood pressure) and control of hypertension along with smoking cessation for prevention.