March 17, 2019/Heart Health

Can I Drive, Exercise or Have Sex if I Have an Aneurysm?

When to limit your activity and when not to

Romantic elderly couple relaxing together and lying down in bed

If you have an aneurysm, you may not feel that bulge in your blood vessel, but it may always be in the back of your mind.

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Aneurysms occur because of a weakened wall in an artery — most commonly your aorta, the main artery that carries blood from your heart to the rest of your body. An aneurysm can grow as blood pressure increases. If it grows too large, it can become more likely to burst or split open, which can be life threatening.

So, keeping your heart rate and blood pressure under control is the No. 1 way to try to manage an aneurysm and keep it as small as possible. That’s why some people think they shouldn’t be too active or do anything too strenuous if they have one.

But that’s not so, says vascular surgeon Federico Parodi, MD.

“The most important thing I tell my patients with aortic aneurysms is to have a normal life,” he says. “Very rarely do I advise patients to change their normal activities.”

Activity guidelines

Actually, there are no official activity guidelines for people with aneurysms. However, Dr. Parodi has some recommendations.

“If you have a small aneurysm, 4 cm wide or smaller, there are no restrictions on your activity,” he says. “If your aneurysm gets bigger, you may need to be a little more careful, but the main thing is to work with your cardiologist or primary care provider to control your blood pressure.”

Large aneurysms (5-5.5 cm for abdominal aortic aneurysms and 5.5-6 cm for thoracic aortic aneurysms) need to be surgically repaired.

If you have a larger aneurysm and are getting closer to repair, it’s still ok to stay active.

These activities are usually safe to do, he says, even with a growing aneurysm:

  • Moderate exercise, like walking, cycling or swimming.
  • Lifting light or medium weights.
  • Traveling, including driving and riding in an airplane.
  • Doing gardening, yard work or housework.
  • Playing golf or tennis.
  • Having sex.
  • Riding amusement park rides.

“More than 90 percent of the time, whatever you’d do without an aneurysm is safe to do with an aneurysm,” says Dr. Parodi.

One thing to avoid

But there is one general rule: Don’t lift more than half your weight. At least not routinely.

“For most patients, if you need to help move a big table or chair one time, go ahead,” says Dr. Parodi. “Just avoid repetitively increasing your heart rate and blood pressure, like consistently doing extreme weightlifting.”

When is activity too much?

It’s easy to tell when an activity is too much. It’s when your heart is pounding and you can’t catch your breath, says Dr. Parodi.

“If you have an aneurysm, stop yourself before you reach that level of exhaustion,” he says. “Otherwise, lead your normal life. Don’t feel like you can’t go out to dinner or out for a walk. Activity is good for your cardiovascular health, even with an aneurysm.”

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