Six years ago, the feds rushed the approval of brain stents for patients facing a high risk of stroke, claiming they needed to act quickly on "compassionate" grounds.
Today, I just have to wonder whose compassion they had in mind -- because it's certainly not those stroke patients: They began dropping dead so quickly and so often that the latest study on the stents had to be cut short.
And instead of waiting to get the results published, the researchers quickly posted them online to help spread the word to docs around the world that this "treatment" is more like a death sentence.
In the doomed study, researchers gave 450 patients who had suffered a stroke or stroke-like symptoms either the usual treatments to reduce risk factors or the stents, which are supposed to open narrowed arteries in the brain.
In the first 30 days after treatment, 15 percent of the stent patients had a second stroke or died -- versus just 6 percent of those in the control group. Over the course of a year, 20.5 percent of the stent patients had a stroke or died, versus 11.5 percent of those in the control group.
The researchers say they're still trying to figure out why the stent patients had such a dramatically higher risk of stroke and death, but does it even matter at this point?
The risks are just way too high, and that brings us back to square one -- because there's still no surefire way to eliminate your risk of stroke, and any drug or treatment that claims otherwise is selling an empty promise.
The best and only way to protect yourself is to focus on lifestyle changes, and not the ones your doctor has been recommending.
He'll probably tell you that cholesterol has something to do with stroke -- even the National Stroke Association puts it high on the list, right after hypertension and atrial fibrillation. But a study earlier this year found that LDL levels were only a stroke risk factor in men when they reached the sky-high level of 350. (Read about it here.)
Other than that, the researchers found no link at all -- so whatever you do, don't let anyone talk you into taking a statin to lower your stroke risk.
Another blood fat, triglycerides, can boost your stroke risk -- but you don't need a drug to slash those.
Fish oil will do the trick for you.
Along with omega-3 fatty acids, studies have found that coffee, olive oil, and a positive outlook can all lower your risk of stroke. I've got one more coming up next -- and it's something you might be eating everyday anyway.