These heartburn medications could be linked to increased risk of dementia

 

By Emily Price

New research suggests that long-term use of proton pump inhibitors, also known as PPIs, to treat heartburn and acid reflux might put you at a greater risk for dementia.

According to a study published in the journal Neurology on Wednesday, people over 45 who used one of the drugs over four years had a 33% higher chance of developing dementia than those who did not.

“Proton pump inhibitors are a useful tool to help control acid reflux, however, long-term use has been linked in previous studies to a higher risk of stroke, bone fractures, and chronic kidney disease,” said study author Kamakshi Lakshminarayan, MBBS, PhD, of the University of Minnesota School of Public Health in Minneapolis, and a member of the American Academy of Neurology, in a statement. “Still, some people take these drugs regularly, so we examined if they are linked to a higher risk of dementia. While we did not find a link with short-term use, we did find a higher risk of dementia associated with long-term use of these drugs.”

The study looked at a group of 5,712 people aged 45-64, and found that of the 497 people who took PPIs for 4.5 years or longer, 58 of them developed dementia.

Important to note, the study does not prove that acid reflux drugs cause dementia. It only shows there’s an association between taking the drugs and developing the disease.

That’s to say, if you take the drug occasionally after a big meal, you don’t need to throw away the bottle just yet. More studies will need to be done to determine what the link between the drug and dementia might be.

Of the 4,222 participants who did not take the drugs, 415 also developed dementia, and researchers did not find a higher risk for dementia among those who took the drugs for less than 4.4 years.

 

According to the American Academy of Neurology, the study only looked at prescription medications, while over-the-counter medications were excluded. It only asked participants about medication use once a year, leaving a lot of room for inaccuracies.

“More research is needed to confirm our findings and explore reasons for the possible link between long-term proton pump inhibitor use and a higher risk of dementia,” Lakshminarayan said. “While there are various ways to treat acid reflux, such as taking antacids, maintaining a healthy weight, and avoiding late meals and certain foods, different approaches may not work for everyone. It is important that people taking these medications speak with their doctor before making any changes, to discuss the best treatment for them, and because stopping these drugs abruptly may result in worse symptoms.”

PPIs have been connected in previous studies to a greater risk of chronic kidney disease, bone fractures, and a higher risk of stroke.

Note: This story was updated to reflect new information provided by the American Academy of Neurology.

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