Arteries' Mere Millimeters a Mainstay Until Aneurysms Raise Risk of Lethal Rupture


Eugene Lee didn't think much about the pain in his right leg until one day when it collapsed under him as he took a step. He had no idea that the problem was not just in his leg.

"My leg wasn't swollen, but I felt something was wrong."

-Eugene Lee, patient, Stanford Hospital & Clinics

Lee's wife, Wendy, was as shocked as he was when doctors first told Lee he would lose his right leg. The couple prayed, she said, and had faith in the Stanford physicians.

Keeping up with the family dogs is easy for Lee now. When he brings out the jar of treats, they are ready.

"When you have four or five problems, it's about setting priorities and figuring out the best sequence of treatment."

-Ronald L. Dalman, MD, Chief, Stanford Hospital Division of Vascular Surgery

Lee has three bikes and rides as often as he can. He enjoys the exercise for its own sake and knows that it's good for his overall health.

"I was lucky. I was at the right hospital with the right doctor."

-Eugene Lee, patient, Stanford Hospital & Clinics

- Quit—smoking or just don't start. Smoking accelerates the aging process of the vascular system, constricting and reducing arterial strength.
- If you have a family history of vascular disease, talk to your doctor about screening tests that might be appropriate.

- Maintain a healthy weight. Choose foods with special attention to cholesterol, which is an important part of keeping cell walls properly functioning. But, too much of one type of cholesterol gums up the arteries. Saturated fat, especially in meat and dairy products, can raise the amount of that kind of cholesterol. Reduce your salt intake. Too much causes the vascular system to constrict.

- Exercise—becoming more active on a daily basis—will always support good health. Some research indicates it can even repair vascular damage. Even a 15-minute session of vigorous movement gives the heart, which is a muscle, a useful workout. Increased physical activity also activates certain components in the blood to work against atherosclerosis. It can also reduce stress.