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If you think you may have an abdominal aortic aneurysm, or are worried about your aneurysm risk because of a strong family history, make an appointment with your family doctor. If an aneurysm is found early, your treatment may be easier and more effective. Since many abdominal aortic aneurysms are found during a routine physical exam, or while your doctor is looking for another condition, there are no special preparations necessary. If you' re being screened for an aortic aneurysm, your doctor will likely ask if anyone in your family has ever had an aortic aneurysm, so have that information ready. Because appointments can be brief and there' s often a lot of ground to cover, it' s a good idea to be prepared for your appointment.

Here' s some information to help you get ready for your appointment, and what to expect from your doctor. What you can do Be aware of any pre- appointment restrictions. At the time you make the appointment, be sure to ask if there' s anything you need to do in advance, such as restrict your diet. For an ultrasound or echocardiogram, for example, you may need to fast for a period of time beforehand.

Write down any symptoms you' re experiencing, including any that may seem unrelated to an abdominal aortic aneurysm. Write down key personal information, including a family history of heart disease or aneurysms.

Make a list of all medications, as well as any vitamins or supplements, that you' re taking. Take a family member or friend along, if possible. Sometimes it can be difficult to soak up all the information provided to you during an appointment. Someone who accompanies you may remember something that you missed or forgot.

Be prepared to discuss your diet, exercise habits and tobacco use. If you don' t already follow a diet or exercise routine, be ready to talk to your doctor about any challenges you might face in getting started. Be sure to tell your doctor if you' re a current or former smoker. Write down questions to ask your doctor. Your time with your doctor is limited, so preparing a list of questions will help you make the most of your time together.

List your questions from most important to least important in case time runs out.

For an abdominal aortic aneurysm, some basic questions to ask your doctor include: What is likely causing my symptoms or condition? What are other possible causes for my symptoms or condition? What kinds of tests will I need? What' s the best treatment? What' s an appropriate level of physical activity?

How often should I be screened for an aneurysm? Should I tell other family members to be screened for an aneurysm? What are the alternatives to the primary approach that you' re suggesting?

I have other health conditions. How can I best manage them together? Are there any restrictions that I need to follow? Is there a generic alternative to the medicine you' re prescribing me?

Are there any brochures or other printed material that I can take home with me? What websites do you recommend visiting? In addition to the questions that you' ve prepared to ask your doctor, don' t hesitate to ask questions during your appointment at any time that you don' t understand something. What to expect from your doctor Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions.

Being ready to answer them may reserve time to go over any points you want to spend more time on. Your doctor may ask: When did you first begin experiencing symptoms? Have your symptoms been continuous or occasional? How severe are your symptoms?

Do you have a family history of aneurysms? Have you ever smoked? What, if anything, seems to improve your symptoms? What, if anything, appears to worsen your symptoms?

What you can do in the meantime It' s never too early to make healthy lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking, eating healthy foods and becoming more physically active. These are primary lines of defense to keep your blood vessels healthy and prevent an abdominal aortic aneurysm from developing or worsening. If you' re diagnosed with an abdominal aortic aneurysm, you should ask about the size of your aneurysm, whether your doctor has noticed any changes, and how frequently you should visit your doctor for follow- up appointments. & copy; 1998- 2011 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research ( MFMER) .

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