The aorta is the main artery of the body. It originates from the heart and extends down into the abdomen. The aorta is responsible for distributing blood to the whole body. Aortic dissection is a serious medical condition in which the inner layer of the aorta tears, allowing blood to flow in between the layers, forcing them apart. In many cases, aortic dissection can cause rupture of the aorta, and death.
Aortic dissection is not a common medical condition. It typically occurs in men above the age of 60 with other underlying medical conditions. Chronic high blood pressure increases the risk of aortic dissection because it means constant pressure on the aorta, making it more susceptible to tears. Atherosclerosis also increases the risk of aortic dissection. Other risk factors involve conditions of weakened or enlarged aorta such as Marfan syndrome, bicuspid aortic valve, or other rare conditions. There is evidence that repeated cocaine use may also increase the risk of aortic dissection because it temporarily raises blood pressure. High intensity weight-lifting is another activity which may increase the risk because it raises blood pressure. Rarely, pregnant women will experience aortic dissection in an otherwise healthy pregnancy.
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