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Are you living with a silent killer inside you?

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Updated: 5/29 12:01 pm

(BPT) - Eating well, exercise, sleep - these are all things we can control when it comes to our health. But unfortunately, some health-related things are out of sight, and therefore, often out of mind. Hidden health issues can escalate for years before becoming potentially life-threatening. And when they do surface, it might be too late.

Tony Thomas of Detroit, Mich., is one of the lucky survivors. One morning Thomas woke up feeling great, and with no warnings, suffered a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm - also known as AAA (pronounced 'triple A'). He was reading a newspaper, suddenly felt a gurgle on the right side of his back and quickly become incapacitated. His daughter called an ambulance and he was rushed to emergency surgery.

AAA is a very serious condition that most people have never heard of. AAA is a balloon-like bulge in the body's main artery that can burst unexpectedly. The problem with AAA is there are no symptoms, and when the aneurysm ruptures, only 10 to 25 percent of people will survive.

More than 1 million people are living with AAA and it's the third-leading cause of death in men 60 and older. The good news is that AAA can be managed and treated if found in time through a simple ultrasound screening test - so it's important for boomers to know the risk factors for themselves and their loved ones so they can ask their doctor about screening, if necessary.

Today, Thomas feels very fortunate to have survived a ruptured AAA. He has partnered with a non-profit, AAAneurysm Outreach, to become an advocate for their ambassador program - made possible by Medtronic, Inc. - spreading the word about AAA risk factors and the importance of screening.

A quick and painless ultrasound screening of the abdomen, similar to a pregnancy ultrasound, can easily detect the condition. In just a few minutes, a doctor can determine if AAA is present and if corrective action is necessary. The good news is at least 95 percent of AAAs can be successfully treated if detected prior to rupture through screening and most health plans cover AAA screening tests at no cost for people who fit the risk profile.

So who is at greater risk of developing AAA? Risk factors associated with this condition include:

* Age: Individuals 60 or older are most likely to develop this condition.

* Gender: AAAs are between 5 to 10 times more common in men than in women. However, research shows AAA may be more deadly in women.

* Family history: 15 percent of those with AAA have close relatives with the condition.

* History of smoking: Tobacco users are eight times more likely to be affected than non-smokers.

* Other health conditions: Including clogged arteries (atherosclerosis), high blood pressure (hypertension), and high cholesterol.

'I want to urge others to learn about AAA and get screened if they are at risk. I didn't have that opportunity when I was rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery,' says Thomas. 'It's important for others to know that a simple ultrasound screen can help save your life.'

If you or a loved one may be at risk for AAA, ask your doctor about a simple ultrasound screening. Visit www.AOutreach.org to learn more.

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