May 5, 2010
Posted: 11:52 AM ET
Football is a passion of mine, no doubt. As a former player, and current NFL Network analyst, I love everything about the game. I’m truly thankful for a professional career that has spanned more than three decades, and provided me with the opportunity to lend my voice to important public health issues. And these days, I’m passionate about bringing awareness to a silent, but preventable, killer called abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA), or “Triple A.”
Right now in the United States, there are one million people walking around with an AAA, and they don’t know it. My dad was one of those people. A few years ago, he was diagnosed with an AAA during a routine exam. He’s that breed of guy that says… “don’t worry, I’m fine”…no matter what’s going on. I went along with it, but should have known better. Had his AAA not been detected early, he probably wouldn’t be with me today.
Don’t be surprised if you’ve never heard of AAA – until my Dad was diagnosed, I had no idea what AAA was or that it could be fatal. But here are the facts:
1. AAA is a ballooning of the abdominal aorta, the artery that carries blood to the lower part of the body
2. If an AAA goes undetected it can rupture, and only 10 percent of people will survive
3. Risk factors are common – smokers, heart problems, age 60+, family history
4. AAA can be detected and treated. A simple, ultrasound screening can help save lives
Looking back, my dad fit the AAA risk profile exactly. He was a smoker, over the age of 60 and had multiple cardiovascular procedures – including open-heart surgery and stents implanted to open his clogged arteries. Of course, he was fine then too.
My dad’s diagnosis was a wake-up call for me to get screened – I’m at-risk due to my family history – and encourage others to do the same. I’ve since become an ambassador for the Find the AAAnswers campaign (www.FindtheAAAnswers.org), and together we’re starting to open people’s eyes to this silent killer. We want folks to recognize their risk factors, so they can talk to their doctors about getting a simple, painless ultrasound screening before an AAA rupture.
Many Americans, especially men, don’t think something like AAA could ever happen to them. They think – “I’m fine. Why see the doctor?” I was like that too. Football required annual physicals, but if I had a choice between going to the doctor or golfing in the rain – I’d buy a wetsuit.
But when it comes to AAA, you need to take responsibility and make sure you get tested. Early detection ups the odds of survival by close to 95 percent – and those are excellent odds. So I encourage you – take ownership of your health, know your risk and ask your doctor about screening. It could save your life.
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