Acid-blocking drugs calm heartburn but increase your risk for a heart attack

Heartburn is a pretty uncomfortable feeling, and when it strikes, you can think about little else than making it go away. However, would you be willing to trade your heartburn for a potential heart attack? No one in their right mind would say yes, yet countless people put themselves at risk of this every day when they take acid blocking drugs.

According to research from Stanford University scientists, proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) are associated with a higher chance of heart attack and death, and this even applies to those who do not have heart disease. Those who take PPIs have a 16 to 21 percent higher likelihood of suffering a heart attack, while their chances of dying of cardiovascular disease are 122 percent higher.

This is according to a study of the health data in 16 million electronic records pertaining to nearly 3 million patients who had used Stanford medical facilities and other small practices throughout the U.S. between 1994 and 2012.

After identifying 297,000 individuals with acid reflux, the researching compared their heart attack frequency and noted whether they took one of six common PPIs: iansoprazole (Prevacid), esomeprazole (Nexium), omeprazole (Prilosec), pantoprazole (Protonix), dexlansoprazole (Dexilant) or rabeprazole (Aciphex).

This is bad news for those taking the more than 113 million proton pump inhibitor prescriptions that are filled around the world each year. Approximately 21 million Americans use the drugs, and worldwide sales of prescription and over the counter versions exceed $13 billion.

That’s a pretty remarkable success story for medications that experts say are among the most dangerous and over-prescribed on the market. Heartburn is fairly common, even among healthy individuals, and as uncomfortable as it is, not everyone needs drugs to sort it out. PPIs work by blocking the production of acid in the stomach and doctors are quick to prescribe it in those who have gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, even though other approaches can work just as well without the side effects.

The researchers believe that the PPIs are inhibiting nitric oxide synthase enzyme activity in endothelial cells; low levels of this type of activity are already known to promote thrombosis and inflammation while raising vascular resistance.

PPIs also linked to kidney disease and bone fractures

PPIs have also been linked to kidney disease in a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine. In the study, which looked at more than 250,000 people, those who took heartburn medication had an absolute risk of chronic kidney disease of 11.8 percent compared to 8.5 percent for those who did not take the drugs. On top of that, because they suppress stomach acids, they prevent your body from naturally absorbing vitamins and dramatically raise your risk of developing life-threatening infections and bone fractures. The fracture risk is so serious, in fact, that the FDA required all PPIs to start displaying a fracture risk warning on their packaging in 2010.

You can address heartburn naturally to avoid side effects

How can you manage heartburn without risking a heart attack or death? One of the best things you can do is avoid triggers. Some of the common culprits behind heartburn include tomatoes, citrus fruits, coffee, red wine, garlic, red onions, chocolate and spicy foods. However, this can differ from person to person, so it pays to keep a journal of what you ate and when you experienced heartburn to identify patterns. If you don’t want to give up heartburn-inducing foods, you can try drinking aloe juice prior to meals. Chamomile tea or a tea made of fresh ginger root can also help calm your stomach.

Sources for this article include:

comments powered by Disqus