Dr Johnson listening to heart

Early detection is key to preventing aortic emergencies.

Much of the work within the Center for Aortic Disease is focused on preventive care and early detection, as well as management of patients with known aortic conditions. With the increased use of CT scans, more aortic disease is found now than in the past. If it is detected early, most aortic conditions are treatable.

Hypertension is one of the leading causes of aortic conditions. Roughly 1 in 3 adults in the U.S. has hypertension, according to the CDC. Watch Dr. Wallace Johnson, medical director of the Center for Aortic Disease, as he discusses the effects of hypertension on aortic conditions. 

Patients are encouraged to get regular blood pressure screenings at their doctor's office and invest in a digital blood pressure cuff to be used at home. Having more information is helpful in talking with physicians and determining patterns and causes of high blood pressure. 

Physicians can help patients determine whether their hypertension is primary or secondary, meaning it is caused by an underlying condition like kidney disease. Secondary hypertension has a higher risk of emergent events. 

Patients can help their doctors collect valuable information by following these recommendations for at-home blood pressure testing:

  1. Check the blood pressure in both arms around the bicep, not the wrist.  
  2. Take a blood pressure reading three times a day:
    • First thing in the morning before getting out of bed and taking medications. This reading tells doctors what the blood pressure is when medication levels are at lowest in the body. 
    • Take a second blood pressure reading after work in the evening.
    • Take a third reading right before bed.

If a patient is diagnosed with high blood pressure and aortic disease, doctors may recommend lifestyle changes. These changes may include low sodium diets, lower levels of physical exertion, and stress reduction. 

A patient's medical history is extremely important in helping doctors diagnose aortic conditions. In addition to sharing any symptoms like chest pain, weakness or numbness, fainting, patients should disclose thri family medical history to identify any possible genetic conditions.

Additional testing may be required to assist in the diagnosis, including:

To schedule an appointment at the Center for Aortic Disease, please call 410-328-4771.

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