Dementia risk could be increased through consistent use of heartburn medication.
Despite extensive medical research, there is still much to learn about dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Scientists have found that environmental factors, lifestyle choices, and genetics play a role in developing these brain diseases.
Genetics is the least capable of being addressed, even though you “can’t fool the old gene pool.”
Consequently, lifestyle and environmental factors tend to produce the most applicable information.
According to a recent USA Today article titled “Popular heartburn medicine may increase dementia risk by 33%. What to know to stay safe,“ a recent study published in the Neurology medical journal and funded by the National Institute of Health focused on how a specific, commonly used medication may have connections to dementia development.
More than 5,700 individuals participated in this study.
When the study began, none of the subjects had dementia.
The average age of participants was 75 years old.
Researchers followed study participants for 5½ years.
How did researchers gather the data?
The researchers gathered and reviewed information about prescription medication use during yearly phone calls or in-person visits.
What medication was evaluated?
The study focused on proton pump inhibitors for digestive tract issues, stomach ulcers, and acid reflux.
Acid reflux is common in many Americans and occurs when stomach acid escapes its confines and moves into the esophagus.
The condition can progress to gastroesophageal disease, leading to a damaged esophagus and a higher cancer risk.
How does a proton pump inhibitor alleviate this condition?
The heartburn medication targets the acid-producing enzymes in the stomach lining to reduce stomach acid.
The recent study is the latest to connect these medications millions of Americans use to a growing list of conditions such as stroke, heart disease, and kidney disease.
Because proton pump inhibitors have been connected to the development of other conditions like heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease, over-the-counter medications under the brand names Nexium, Prilosec, and Prevacid were not evaluated in this study.
What were the findings of this study?
Researchers found those who took a prescription heartburn medication for 4.4 years or more recorded the highest rate of dementia at the end of the study.
Compared to those who never took the heartburn medication, those prescribed the drug had a 33 percent greater risk of developing dementia.
Participants who only took the acid reflux medication for a limited time did not demonstrate a higher risk of dementia.
What does this mean practically?
The research team emphasized causation was not established in the study.
Instead, they found a correlation between the drug and dementia.
Even so, discussing your medication regimen with your doctor and your concerns about side effects and other risks is essential.
While you are at it, take all your current prescriptions to your pharmacist to evaluate potential adverse interactions.
You need to be proactive and mind your own health care because you have a more than vested interest in its success.
Reference: USA Today (August 15, 2023) “Popular heartburn medicine may increase dementia risk by 33%. What to know to stay safe.“