The aorta is the main blood vessel that carries blood from the heart to all the arteries in the body. It travels down the back of the chest and abdomen and then branches into two large arteries by the hips. An aneurysm is a stretch or bulge in the vessel that is caused by long-term vessel wall damage. There are multiple ways to damage vessels including smoking, elevated blood pressure, and elevated cholesterol. An aortic aneurysm usually does not have symptoms, but it can tear and cause severe chest and back pain, significant internal bleeding and even death. Fortunately, there are ways to prevent this from happening. Stopping smoking, controlling your blood pressure and cholesterol will help reduce risks. Your physician may get a screening ultrasound to check on the blood vessels.