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This Simple ‘Thumb Test’ Can Help Ward Off a Serious (and Sneaky) Heart Condition


Early detection is the key to overcoming pretty much any ailment. Unfortunately, many of the most serious health issues out there are also sneaky and difficult to spot. However, in the case of an aortic aneurysm, an often hidden and potentially deadly heart condition, there’s now a simple at-home test that can prevent it from causing any harm.

Doctors from Yale University claim that aortic aneurysms are the 13th highest cause of death in the US, responsible for 10,000 lives lost each year. If discovered early, there are life-saving treatment options available, like radiographic monitoring or surgery.

Dr. John A. Elefteriades, the director of the Aortic Institute at Yale New Haven Hospital, and his colleagues have been using something called the “thumb test” for decades to check whether a patient is likely to develop the condition. It involves holding out one hand, keeping the palm flat, and laying your thumb down over it. If the thumb extends past the opposite edge of the palm, that could be a sign the person is prone to a hidden aortic aneurysm.

Despite using it for so long, Elefteriades and his team only just recently verified its through clinical studies. The researchers explain that being able to move the thumb in such a way can indicate that a patient has the long bones and lax joints associated with connective tissue diseases, including aneurysms. 

Now Elefteriades wants everyone to know about the simple test — especially anyone with a family history of aortic aneurysm or heart disease. “The biggest problem in aneurysm disease is recognizing affected individuals within the general population before the aneurysm ruptures,” he said in the press release. “Spreading knowledge of this test may well identify silent aneurysm carriers and save lives.”

The researchers also emphasize that those with thumbs that extend past the palm shouldn’t immediately panic. It can show up in people who aren’t aneurysm carriers, too. Plus, if there is an aneurysm present, it takes decades for them to progress — meaning there should be plenty of time to treat it.

The Cleveland Clinic lists other signs of an aortic aneurysm as pain in the jaw, neck, upper back, or chest area, hoarse throat, and abdomen pain. If you have any of these signs, including the quick thumb test, you should definitely chat with your doctor about a possible diagnosis. We certainly hope this helps save a lot of lives!

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