Tommy Ford, a member of the cast of “Martin,” a popular sitcom that aired on the Fox network in the '90s, died of an abdominal aortic aneurysm on Wednesday at the age of 52. The rupture is a surprisingly common cause of death, according to Nadia Awad, MD, a vascular surgeon at Einstein.
AAA is the 10th leading cause of death in men over the age of 55 and the 15th leading cause of death in the United States, Dr. Awad said. It's caused by the weakening of the aorta, the main blood vessel that supplies blood to your body, which leads to a balloon-like dilation.
According to Dr. Awad:
AAA is fairly common and every year 200,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with one. Most AAA cause no symptoms and are found when a patient is being evaluated for another medical problem. However, some patients have pain, which can be a sign of impending rupture. The larger the AAA becomes, the greater the chance that it may burst, which is a life-threatening event that can happen without notice. Up to 90 percent of patients who have ruptured AAA die.
The main causes of AAA include smoking, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. However, AAA can run in families, and when it does, the aneurysms tend to happen in younger patients. If you have a first-degree relative with an AAA, you are 12 times more likely to develop one yourself.
Treatment of AAA depends on how big the aneurysm is. However, every AAA should be watched closely. When AAA are larger than five centimeters, the treatment is surgery, and new, minimally invasive surgery is possible for some people.
If you have family members with AAA, or if you are male over the age of 65 who has ever smoked, you should schedule an ultrasound to check out your aorta.
Ford passed away Wednesday in an Atlanta hospital after being hospitalized on Sunday. The sitcom “Martin” aired for five seasons on the Fox network, from August 27, 1992, to May 1, 1997, and was one of the network's highest rated shows during its run.