How NOT to Prevent a Stroke

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Filed Under: Heart Health
Last Reviewed 06/25/2014

Many doctors are too quick to do surgeries to prevent strokes.One of the major risk factors for a stroke is carotid artery stenosis, which is the buildup of plaque in the arteries in the neck that supply blood to the brain. Treatment options for carotid artery stenosis include drugs and lifestyle changes.

Two invasive procedures are also used to treat carotid artery stenosis and to prevent a stroke: Carotid endarterectomy, in which the artery is opened up and plaque is surgically removed, and the angioplasty procedure, in which a stent is inserted to keep the artery open. Unfortunately, there are well-known and horrific dangers associated with both carotid endarterectomy and the angioplasty procedure. That’s why I don’t think they should be used to treat carotid artery stenosis and/or to prevent a stroke.

These Invasive Procedures Don’t Necessarily Prevent a Stroke

A study published in the Lancet looked at patients with symptomatic carotid artery stenosis (such as a “mini-stroke”) who had undergone the angioplasty procedure. What they found is that for patients 70 or older, the risk of having a stroke or dying within four months of stenting was 12 percent (1 in 8!). 

That’s over twice the rate for carotid endarterectomy, which was 5.9 percent (1 in 17). Plus, most of the strokes and deaths in both groups occurred in the first 30 days following the procedure.

Even more shocking, these two procedures weren’t compared to conservative treatment—it wasn’t even a consideration. You can’t possibly determine whether these interventions are really effective ways to treat carotid artery stenosis and/or prevent a stroke unless you know the stroke/death rates of patients who don’t undergo any type of invasive procedure.

What I Recommend

If you or a loved one is recommended to have a carotid endarterectomy or the angioplasty procedure, I suggest you do these three things:

  1. First, if you’re 70 or older, say no to the angioplasty procedure.
  2. Second, ask your physician for scientifically documented information that indicates if you were to follow a conservative course, your risk of having a stroke or dying within four months would be greater than 1 in 17, as it is for endarterectomy, or 1 in 8, the stat for stenting.
  3. Finally, before succumbing to any procedure, get a second opinion

It’s also important to adopt safe, natural, and proven ways to prevent a stroke, which include eating a low-fat, high-fiber diet, getting regular exercise, and taking the right nutritional supplements.

Now it’s your turn: Have you or someone you know had a doctor recommend a carotid endarterectomy or the angioplasty procedure to prevent a stroke?

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