The aorta is a rather complex organ. Its wall has a 3-layered configuration. The innermost layer, a stable layer called the intima, is supported by a sub-layer made of relatively loose connective-tissue. The materials that make up these two layers make the inner part of the aorta resist and withstand shearing forces as blood is pumped powerfully by the heart’s left ventricle. The adventitia is the outer layer – with its high tensile strength, it contributes substantially to aortic robustness.
Discussions on aortic ailments comprise two related but different conditions. One is dissection, a tear. The second is an aneurysm, which is actually a swelling or bulge in a portion of the aorta.
An aortic dissection occurs when an entry tear allows blood flow to enter the space between the inner and outer layers, thereby creating a new secondary channel (called the false lumen). The precise conditions under which the initial tear happens are still not fully understood. What is clear however is that for the initial tear to happen, a weakened aortic wall is a prerequisite, as this is what makes the aorta vulnerable to high or uncontrolled blood pressure.
In many cases, the new channel created by the tear could just keep the blood flowing without too many complications – this was the case for amma. In some cases, such a secondary channel can compress the original inner channel to the point of collapse and this can lead to complications in blood supply to vital organs.
Aortic aneurysms happen for the same reasons as dissections – very high blood pressure – but instead of a tear in the aorta, parts of the aorta exhibit a significant swelling. Technically, it is called an aneurysm when the diameter at the bulge is more than 1.5 times the normal aortic diameter at that point. Aortic aneurysms can happen in ascending or descending aorta. The two most frequent locations for aneurysms are at the throat (ascending aorta) and abdomen (descending aorta), with the latter being more common.
Even though aortic emergencies are relatively unknown compared to many other serious heart diseases, celebrities have been affected by, and succumbed to, these. Perhaps the most famous personality who suffered from an aortic problem is Albert Einstein. Einstein had an abdominal aortic aneurysm, and in fact died owing to the rupture of the aneurysm. He had been diagnosed with the aneurysm some years earlier and operated using a pioneering technique that wrapped his aneurysm with cellophane. After seven years of holding tight, the aneurysm ruptured in April 1955. Einstein is said to have refused treatment the second time round, and instead demanded, “I want to go when I want. It is tasteless to prolong life artificially; I have done my share, it is time to go. I will do it elegantly.” I guess you need to be an Einstein to do something as courageous as that.
Read Amma the fun way!
Do you know that you can read specific chapters alone of Amma depending on who you are and what interests you? So, we have selected chapters that could be of interest to young, middle-aged and old men & women, to medical and white collar professionals, to those wishing to know specifically about heart problems, blood pressure or leg ailments, medical management of seniors & elders, and even those interested in reading some fun and humour.
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