An aneurysm is a localized, blood-filled balloon-like bulge in the wall of a blood vessel. Aneurysms can commonly occur in arteries at the base of the brain and an aortic aneurysm occurs in the main artery carrying blood from the left ventricle of the heart. Severe cases of aneurysms may result in hemorrhages and, eventually death.
A study published online on May 5 in the journal Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association, revealed that certain activities, such as drinking coffee, having sex, and getting angry, can cause an aneurysm to rupture, and possibly bring about death. Dr. Sahil Parikh, assistant professor of medicine at University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland admits that while the likelihood is small, people currently diagnosed with aneurysms should avoid those activities as much as possible.
In the study, which was conducted over the course of 3 years, Dutch researchers interviewed 250 patients over the age of 18 who had suffered a ruptured brain aneurysm about their exposure and connected them with 30 possible triggers. The researchers identified several actions that raise the risk of burst aneurysm, including:
1. Being startled – Increases risk 23 times / Cause of 2.7% of ruptures
2. Sexual Intercourse – Increases risk 11 times / Cause of 4.3% of ruptures
3. Straining for defecation – Increases risk 7 times / Cause of 3.6% of ruptures
4. Being Angry – Increases risk 6 times / Cause of 1.3% of ruptures
5. Drinking Coffee – Increases risk 2 times / Cause of 10.6% of ruptures
6. Drinking Cola - Increases risk 2 times / Cause of 3.5% of ruptures
7. Nose Blowing – Increases risk 2 times / Cause of 5.4% of ruptures
8. Vigorous Physical Activity – Increases risk 2 times / Cause of 7.9% of ruptures
The study is not without its critics, however. Ralph L. Sacco, MD, professor and chair of neurology at the Miller School of Medicine, University of Miami, states that people’s ability to recall exactly what they did in the period before the stroke, among other things, creates limitations for the study and its results. He admits, though, that it is a “novel study design that suggests certain triggers may be important in the rupture of brain aneurysms causing bleeding strokes.” He says that the eight triggers cited by the researchers are, indeed, plausible.
The lead author of the study, Dr. Monique H.M. Vlak, believes that the factor that ties all 8 of the activities together to increase the risk of aneurysm rupture is high blood pressure. Despite the fact that 2% of the population has an aneurysm, and some may not be even aware of it, she notes that people should not excessively worry about it and simply suggests that if you believe you are at risk of an aneurysm, you should consult with your doctor and get professional advice.
For those who have aneurysms, she advises them not to take caffeine at all, and to use laxatives if constipated. Finally, exercise, she believes, heavily outweighs the negatives it could possibly cause with its positives, including lowering the risk of heart disease and stroke, so she encourages it.
Aneurysms can be operated on, but some are more difficult cases than others, making the operation a major risk, so it is best to deal with the problem before it becomes worse. According to the Brain Aneurysm Foundation, there are 25,000 to 27,000 ruptures a year, 40% of which are fatal, in the United States alone.