Legendary sports journalist Grant Wahl died at age 49 in Qatar while covering the 2022 World Cup on Friday due to an aortic aneurysm rupture, his wife Dr. Céline Gounder wrote Wednesday.
In a statement, Dr. Gounder explained that Wahl died from "the rupture of a slowly growing, undetected ascending aortic aneurysm with hemoperdicardium," and reiterated that "there was nothing nefarious about his death."
"The chest pressure he experienced shortly before his death may have represented the initial symptoms. No amount of CPR or shocks would have saved him. His death was unrelated to COVID. His death was unrelated to vaccination status. There was nothing nefarious about his death," Gounder wrote in a blog post.
What is an Aortic Aneurysm?
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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an aortic aneurysm is a balloon-like bulge in the aorta, a large artery that carries blood from the heart through the chest and torso.
The bulge(s) may grow over time, and eventually tear or rupture, leading to internal bleeding which is the cause of most deaths from aortic aneurysms, the CDC explains.
While Aneurysms can develop anywhere along the aorta, most occur in the area of the chest and belly, where they tend to grow slowly and therefore are hard to detect.
What Causes an Aortic Aneurysm?
According to The Texas Heart Institute, an independent, nonprofit organization focused on cardiovascular health research, any condition that causes the walls of the arteries to weaken can lead to an aneurysm. High blood pressure and smoking may also increase your risk.
Other conditions that can cause an aortic aneurysm include a plaque buildup inside the arteries, injuries that result in tears along the artery walls, and genetic conditions such as Loeys–Dietz syndrome and Turner syndrome.
What Are the Symptoms of an Aortic Aneurysm?
The Texas Heart Institute explains aortic aneurysms may cause shortness of breath, a croaky or raspy voice, backache, or pain in your left shoulder or between your shoulder blades.
Meanwhile, an aortic aneurysm in the stomach area may cause pain or tenderness, an upset stomach, or a lack of appetite.
How to Prevent an Aortic Aneurysm
To prevent an aortic aneurysm or keep an aortic aneurysm from worsening, the Mayo Clinic advises people to exercise, eat healthily, not smoke, and keep cholesterol and blood pressure under control.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force advises men between the ages of 65 to 75 who have ever smoked to get an ultrasound screening for abdominal aortic aneurysms, even if they have no symptoms.
How Are Aortic Aneurysms Treated?
Treatment depends on the size and location of your aneurysm and your overall health, The Texas Institute explains.
Aortic aneurysms in the upper chest (the ascending aorta) are usually operated on right away while aneurysms in the lower chest or the area below your stomach may not be as life-threatening.
Aneurysms in these locations are then watched for varying periods, depending on their size. If they become about 5 cm (almost 2″) in diameter, continue to grow, or begin to cause symptoms, you may need to have surgery to keep the aneurysm from bursting.
What's the Difference Between an Aortic Aneurysm and a Heart Attack?
Aortic aneurysms and heart attacks both have similar symptoms, such as severe chest, back, or abdominal pain, shortness of breath, pain in the arms or legs, weakness, or heavy sweating, so it is important to get a check-up if those symptoms arise.
Aortic dissections are life-threatening and must be treated emergently. If you or someone you are with has these symptoms, dial 911 immediately. Even if it is not aortic dissection, it could be a heart attack, stroke, or other serious health issues, says SecondsCount, a professional organization of cardiologists and physicians who diagnose and treat cardiovascular diseases and congenital and structural heart conditions.
According to the CDC, dissections were the cause of 9,904 deaths in 2019. A history of smoking accounts for about 75% of all abdominal aortic aneurysms.