Managing Stress, High BP & Aneurysms: What can we do & not do?

Posted by suz1950 @suz1950, May 30 8:35am

Hi, I was recently diagnosed with aortic aneurism after a CT Cardiac Scoring test. Both my parents had premature CAD and died in their 50s. I had a DNA test provided through work that showed I was at greater risk, so I decided to see a cardiologist.
My arteries aren't bad (overall risk at 44th percentile) and my cholesterol and triglycerides are excellent. But, my aneurism is 4.5. My primary care dr. increased my BP meds and that is helping get it back into control. My cardiologist doubled my statin to 20 and will follow up with blood tests and possibly an echocardiogram, to decide next steps. Like @mustangsally67, I want to know what I can do/should not do.
I'd love to know your views and experience with stress management. I am hoping to start up a discussion about this topic 🙂

Interested in more discussions like this? Go to the Aortic Aneurysms group.

Hello @suz1950 and welcome to Mayo Connect. I see that you posted on May 28, my apologies for being slow to respond. I can certainly understand your concern, especially given your family history. It is good to know that your arteries are as you say, "…aren't bad (overall risk at 44th percentile) and my cholesterol and triglycerides are excellent." Given that good report, you are wise to look for ways to control stress.

On Connect, we have a discussion group on Aortic aneurysms and exercises which you might find helpful. Here is the link to that discussion, https://connect.mayoclinic.org/discussion/ascending-aortic-aneurysm-and-exercise/. I would like to invite @upartist @hsminc and @mermaid1 to this conversation.

What are you currently doing to reduce stress, @suz1950?

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@hopeful33250

Hello @suz1950 and welcome to Mayo Connect. I see that you posted on May 28, my apologies for being slow to respond. I can certainly understand your concern, especially given your family history. It is good to know that your arteries are as you say, "…aren't bad (overall risk at 44th percentile) and my cholesterol and triglycerides are excellent." Given that good report, you are wise to look for ways to control stress.

On Connect, we have a discussion group on Aortic aneurysms and exercises which you might find helpful. Here is the link to that discussion, https://connect.mayoclinic.org/discussion/ascending-aortic-aneurysm-and-exercise/. I would like to invite @upartist @hsminc and @mermaid1 to this conversation.

What are you currently doing to reduce stress, @suz1950?

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Good morning Suz1950. It looks like you are receiving good care. That part of the "worry" should be comforting, and is foundation for you to be given control over the behavioral components to your care plan…. namely, stress control, physical activity, and nutrition. A care plan is always a package deal. Stress management always needs a "personal" design, because our daily lives/thoughts are our own. You could look at the modalities of schedule, music, sleep, simple small time-outs with sound elimination while moving or not moving. The choices are numerous in whatever helps you personally to achieve "existing in the moment of relaxation and mindfulness". I hope this helps.
UP Artist

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I joined this group because my 52 year old son was diagnosed in 2014. They started surgery and decided the aneurism wasn't large enough. I am so proud of him taking care to do whatever it takes to stay healthy including giving up a job because of too much stress. He walks, watches diet, meditates and calls if he needs to talk. He raised his son on his own and has no significant other. There have been improvements in care and surgery and hopefully will be more before before surgery is unavailable.

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I'm in the same situation. Recently diagnosed with 43 mm ascending aortic aneurysm. I had genetic testing and that was negative. In August I'll have another CT scan and echo. In the meantime I was told to add a beta blocker to my statin, which has further lowered my blood pressure and to keep doing cardio workout as long as I can carry on a conversation. The biggest change is weight training and lifting heavy objects. No more heavy weights or straining to lift or push objects. I've searched the Internet and found a cardiologist with an aortic aneurysm that recommends a different style of weight training called The 100. You can google it if you are interested. I'll have to wait until August to see if it is growing or staying the same.

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@hopeful33250

Hello @suz1950 and welcome to Mayo Connect. I see that you posted on May 28, my apologies for being slow to respond. I can certainly understand your concern, especially given your family history. It is good to know that your arteries are as you say, "…aren't bad (overall risk at 44th percentile) and my cholesterol and triglycerides are excellent." Given that good report, you are wise to look for ways to control stress.

On Connect, we have a discussion group on Aortic aneurysms and exercises which you might find helpful. Here is the link to that discussion, https://connect.mayoclinic.org/discussion/ascending-aortic-aneurysm-and-exercise/. I would like to invite @upartist @hsminc and @mermaid1 to this conversation.

What are you currently doing to reduce stress, @suz1950?

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Thanks for your reply, @hopeful33250 Right now I swim a couple of times a week and exercise using a VR game, Beat Saber. I find these helpful for reducing stress. I also do deep breathing when I feel stress getting the better of me and do reflective writing which seems to help me gain a bigger perspective on things.

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@upartist

Good morning Suz1950. It looks like you are receiving good care. That part of the "worry" should be comforting, and is foundation for you to be given control over the behavioral components to your care plan…. namely, stress control, physical activity, and nutrition. A care plan is always a package deal. Stress management always needs a "personal" design, because our daily lives/thoughts are our own. You could look at the modalities of schedule, music, sleep, simple small time-outs with sound elimination while moving or not moving. The choices are numerous in whatever helps you personally to achieve "existing in the moment of relaxation and mindfulness". I hope this helps.
UP Artist

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I found your reply helpful and validating, @upartist. You are right, knowing that I am in good hands is a great comfort. I like the way you express how this is a foundation for gaining control over the things that I can do to positively impact my health in this situation. Taking some kind of constructive action is my "go-to" coping strategy and always makes me feel better.
I completely agree about stress management needing a personal design, and while I've done a bit of that I can see there is much more I can build upon with the components you mention (all important and personally meaningful to me).
Thanks again!
Suz1950

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@mtnyankee

I joined this group because my 52 year old son was diagnosed in 2014. They started surgery and decided the aneurism wasn't large enough. I am so proud of him taking care to do whatever it takes to stay healthy including giving up a job because of too much stress. He walks, watches diet, meditates and calls if he needs to talk. He raised his son on his own and has no significant other. There have been improvements in care and surgery and hopefully will be more before before surgery is unavailable.

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Thank you, @mtnyankee – love how you shared your son's story. I can strongly relate and appreciate that giving up a stressful job can provide a lot of relief from daily stressors. I recently (before my diagnosis of TAA) decided to step down from the extremely stressful administrative component of my job. I am hopeful that will help me a great deal (right now in the process of training my successor but will leave that component of my work in a couple of weeks). I feel fortunate to have put that change in motion before I knew about this.
Suz1950

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@mermaid1

I'm in the same situation. Recently diagnosed with 43 mm ascending aortic aneurysm. I had genetic testing and that was negative. In August I'll have another CT scan and echo. In the meantime I was told to add a beta blocker to my statin, which has further lowered my blood pressure and to keep doing cardio workout as long as I can carry on a conversation. The biggest change is weight training and lifting heavy objects. No more heavy weights or straining to lift or push objects. I've searched the Internet and found a cardiologist with an aortic aneurysm that recommends a different style of weight training called The 100. You can google it if you are interested. I'll have to wait until August to see if it is growing or staying the same.

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@mermaid1, it's comforting to meet someone else who is in the same situation. All the best as you focus on preventive strategies and await your August appointment. Waiting is so hard, isn't it? I have my follow up in mid-July and have to work to keep myself from worrying about whether my ascending aortic aneurism is getting worse in the interim. I guess we just have to trust that we're doing everything we can to positively impact our health, ongoing.
All the best,
Suz1950

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@suz1950

Thanks for your reply, @hopeful33250 Right now I swim a couple of times a week and exercise using a VR game, Beat Saber. I find these helpful for reducing stress. I also do deep breathing when I feel stress getting the better of me and do reflective writing which seems to help me gain a bigger perspective on things.

Jump to this post

Hello again @suz1950,

It does sound like you have a lot of activities in place for stress relief and that is just great! I was especially pleased that you mention "reflective writing." I agree that writing does help to keep life's problems in perspective. Do you have a particular method of writing?

You might be interested in joining Connect's journaling discussion group. Here is the link, https://connect.mayoclinic.org/discussion/journaling-the-write-stuff-for-you/.

When is your next follow-up appointment or scan to check on the status of the aneurysm?

REPLY
@hopeful33250

Hello again @suz1950,

It does sound like you have a lot of activities in place for stress relief and that is just great! I was especially pleased that you mention "reflective writing." I agree that writing does help to keep life's problems in perspective. Do you have a particular method of writing?

You might be interested in joining Connect's journaling discussion group. Here is the link, https://connect.mayoclinic.org/discussion/journaling-the-write-stuff-for-you/.

When is your next follow-up appointment or scan to check on the status of the aneurysm?

Jump to this post

Hi @hopeful33250 I have an existing electronic journal focused on adapting to the challenges of aging and create new journals when I want to focus on a specific topic. The journaling group looks interesting, thanks for sharing that.
My follow-up is in mid-July, to see the results of doubling my statin dose and getting a lipid panel and cardiac C-reactive protein and Lipoprotein(A) tests in advance of that visit. In the meantime, I'm monitoring my blood pressure at home, which at times has been quite high (~170/80). But, I had a BP check yesterday with my primary care provider and BP was fine. I'm going to continue monitoring my BP at home and report back. Based on that, my BP meds may need to be adjusted.
I've always thought of myself as very adaptable but I'm finding it hard to deal with the uncertainty. Is my aneurysm getting larger? Will it suddenly rupture without warning? No way to know.
My cardio mentioned in one of the visits that he may want to do an echocardiogram. But, I guess that depends on how he assesses my risk when I see him in July. Arghh, "watchful waiting" may be the recommended strategy for dealing with aneurysms, but oh my, it can be tough on patients who feel their lives are hanging in the balance!
I remain optimistic, but it's hard not to be be anxious about this.
-suz1950

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@suz1950

Hi @hopeful33250 I have an existing electronic journal focused on adapting to the challenges of aging and create new journals when I want to focus on a specific topic. The journaling group looks interesting, thanks for sharing that.
My follow-up is in mid-July, to see the results of doubling my statin dose and getting a lipid panel and cardiac C-reactive protein and Lipoprotein(A) tests in advance of that visit. In the meantime, I'm monitoring my blood pressure at home, which at times has been quite high (~170/80). But, I had a BP check yesterday with my primary care provider and BP was fine. I'm going to continue monitoring my BP at home and report back. Based on that, my BP meds may need to be adjusted.
I've always thought of myself as very adaptable but I'm finding it hard to deal with the uncertainty. Is my aneurysm getting larger? Will it suddenly rupture without warning? No way to know.
My cardio mentioned in one of the visits that he may want to do an echocardiogram. But, I guess that depends on how he assesses my risk when I see him in July. Arghh, "watchful waiting" may be the recommended strategy for dealing with aneurysms, but oh my, it can be tough on patients who feel their lives are hanging in the balance!
I remain optimistic, but it's hard not to be be anxious about this.
-suz1950

Jump to this post

@suz1950

I understand what you are saying about the "watchful waiting" process. It can be unnerving, but so many health issues need to take this approach. Most medical professionals (and patients) want to hold off on surgery until it is absolutely necessary and yet the prospect of when it will become necessary is stressful at best.

You are doing all of the right things, in that you are working on stress control, keeping an eye out for your blood pressure, taking the appropriate meds, and following up with your doctor.

The echocardiogram is a very good diagnostic tool used by cardiologists to determine heart/valve functioning and is not invasive. As you may know, it is a doppler test. As I've had heart valve problems since childhood, I've had more than I can count and they are not problematic at all.

Keep working on stress control and doing your best to avoid negative thinking. Continue posting here on Connect as you need support and keep in contact with your physician if you have any change in symptoms.

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