Simple Thumb Tests Can Reveal If You’re At Risk Of Deadly Heart Problem

A simple thumb test that you can do from the comfort of your own home can reveal if you’re at risk of Harboring An Aortic Aneurysm.

Aortic aneurysms are a major killer globally. The aorta is an enormous blood vessel that carries blood away from your heart, and when it develops an abnormal bulge this is known as an aortic aneurysm (Einstein had one wrapped with literal cellophane).

They can cause discomfort, but most people aren’t aware that they have an aortic aneurysm until it’s picked up in scans. If the aneurysm ruptures, it causes mass internal bleeding, which is usually fatal, so detecting these vessel abnormalities is a key step in the prevention of death.

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Now, a study published in the American Journal of Cardiology has found that a simple self-conducted test involving the thumb and palm of one hand could be used to identify people for whom it’s worth checking for a hidden aortic aneurysm.

According to the report, that aortic aneurysm is the 13th most common cause of death in America, killing around 10,000 people annually, so early detection through a simple test such as this could have huge ramifications for the survival rates among those affected.

The test is easy: hold your hand up and keep your palm flat, as if you’re indicating for someone to stop. Then, stretch your thumb as far as you can across your palm (without hurting yourself). The test is checking for connective tissue disease, which makes the likelihood of an aortic aneurysm more likely. If your thumb can stretch past the edge of your hand, this could be indicative of one such disease and the researchers say may be a sign of a hidden aortic aneurysm.

If your thumb has extended beyond your hand, it’s important to note that not everybody who can do this is found to have an aortic aneurysm. Furthermore, aortic aneurysms can endure for long periods of time without rupturing.

Their detection however is vital as the condition can be managed with lifestyle changes and sometimes surgery. They also call for consistent monitoring so that patients and their physicians can keep ahead of the disease before it results in a potentially fatal rupture.

“The biggest problem in aneurysm disease is recognizing affected individuals within the general population before the aneurysm ruptures,” said senior author Dr John A. Elefteriades, emeritus director of the Aortic Institute at Yale New Haven Hospital. “Our study showed that the majority of aneurysm patients do not manifest a positive thumb-palm sign, but patients who do have a positive test have a high likelihood of harboring an aneurysm.”

While the thumb test is not on its own a sufficient tool for confirmation of diagnosis, Dr Elefteriades and colleagues believe the test is worthy of inclusion in standard physical examinations as it could prove lifesaving, especially for those with a family history of aortic aneurysm.

“Spreading knowledge of this test may well identify silent aneurysm carriers and save lives,” Dr Elefteriades said.

Aortic aneurysm: What is it and who is at risk?

An abdominal aortic aneurysm is a swelling of the main blood vessel that leads away from the heart. Abdominal aortic aneurysms do not normally pose a serious threat to health, but rare large aneurysms can be very serious.

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If a large aneurysm ruptures it can cause huge internal bleeding and is usually fatal. In most cases there are no symptoms, however in rare cases the aneurysm can cause stomach pains or persistent back ache.

If an abdominal aortic aneurysm ruptures it will cause a sudden and severe pain in the abdomen. Other symptoms associated with a rupture are dizziness, sweaty or clammy skin, a rapid heartbeat, feeling faint and loss of consciousness. If you suspect that you or someone else has a ruptured aneurysm, call 999 immediately and ask for an ambulance.

Risk factors:

All men aged 66 or over are at risk of an aortic aneurysm.

Women aged 70 or over who have one or more of the following risk factors are also at higher odds:

  • high blood pressure
  • chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • high blood cholesterol
  • a family history of AAA
  • cardiovascular disease, such as heart disease or a history of stroke
  • history of smoking

You can reduce your risk by:

  • stopping smoking
  • eating healthily
  • exercising regularly
  • cutting down on alcohol

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