Do Acid Reflux Meds Cause Dementia?

Do Acid Reflux Meds Cause Dementia?

Heartburn is the bane of anyone who loves their spicy foods. You indulge in that delicious dish with jalapenos and you know you’re going to pay the price later, when you are lying in bed and your chest is on fire from the inside out.

Later that night, you feel the telltale burn and you reach for the heartburn medication. For most of us, that medication is called a proton pump inhibitor. If it’s an over-the-counter option, you know it by names like Prilosec or Nexium. These medications were long considered safe for almost anyone, even if you are on other medications for chronic conditions, such as diabetes or heart disease.

But new studies have found that it might be a good idea for seniors and the elderly to reach for something other than a proton pump inhibitor. That’s because these medications – also known as PPIs – might be linked to developing dementia.

Acid Reflux Medications and the Link to Dementia

A study was published in the journal Neurology that looked at patients who took PPI medications for a period of several years. The study found that those who used them for long periods of time had a higher risk of dementia than those who didn’t take the medications at all or who only took them for a short amount of time.1

The study analyzed healthcare data from over 5,700 people. Those individuals were an average of 75 years of age at the time of the study and did not have dementia. The study looked only at prescription PPI medications, not the over-the-counter versions. This provided them with a more controlled sample.

After reviewing the data through study visits and annual phone calls, the researchers determined that just under 1,500 people in the study were taking PPI medications.

The researchers divided those 1,500 into four groups for further study. That included:

·        Those who had no prior history of PPI medication

·        Those who took these medications for up to 2.8 years

·        Those who took them for 2.8 years to 4.4 years

·        Those who took the medication for 4.4 years or longer

Over the span of 5.5 years, the researchers found that 10% of the participants developed dementia. After adjusting for other factors such as gender and age, they found that those who took PPIs for over four years were 33% more likely to develop dementia than those who didn’t take them at all.

They did not find a higher risk of dementia for those who took the medications for less than 4.4 years.

Why Do PPIs Lead to Greater Risk of Dementia?

Though the study authors caution that this is early research that shows only that PPIs are linked to dementia but might not actually cause it, there are some reasons why using proton pump inhibitors for a long time could lead to cognitive decline:

·        Prolonged use of PPIs might lead to a deficiency of B12. Lower levels of B12 in the body have been known to mimic the symptoms of early dementia.

·        PPIs might lead to changes in the way the body handles amyloid in the brain. Amyloid is a protein that is closely related to the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

·        PPI results in changes in the gut microbiome. While this is a slight issue with the typical short-term use, it can become a chronic problem with long-term use. Those changes in the gut can affect your body and brain and might have an impact on cognitive decline.

·        It is suspected that long-term use of PPIs could lead to inflammation in the brain or oxidative stress, both of which can affect the health of brain cells.

It also might be that those who regularly take proton pump inhibitors have other problems that lead to heartburn and acid reflux issues. For instance, risk factors for acid reflux include being overweight or obese, staying sedentary, and smoking, all of which are known to contribute to the development of dementia later in life.

Proton Pump Inhibitors and GERD

PPIs work by decreasing the acid your stomach creates. The less stomach acid, the less likely you are to suffer from heartburn and similar ailments. PPIs are used to treat peptic ulcer disease, stomach ulcers, a condition known as erosive esophagitis, and GERD – Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease.

Most people use the medications to treat GERD. This condition occurs when acid regularly flows back into the esophagus from the stomach, creating the burning sensation in your chest. GERD can be a serious problem that eventually leads to significant pain and other related ailments, such as burping and bloating.

And that can lead to being very careful about what you eat, of course, but also additional lifestyle changes. Among those who suffer from acid reflux, about 60% of them reported trouble with their sleep as a result of the condition, according to the Sleep Foundation. Among those who didn’t get enough sleep, three in ten said the fatigue was bad enough to affect their daily functioning.2

That’s a good reason to consider an emergency alert system as another layer of protection. When you are in pain or dealing with disrupted sleep, you might feel fatigued and weak. Having an in-home or on-the-go emergency panic button alarm at your fingertips can give you peace of mind.

Given the constant problems that GERD and other forms of acid reflux can cause, it makes sense that millions reach for proton pump inhibitors. But these medications for acid reflux are meant to be a short-term solution. In fact, over-the-counter PPIs shouldn’t be used for more than two weeks to treat acid reflux, and prescription medications should only be used for up to 12 weeks.

Other Risks of Medications for Acid Reflux

It turns out that long-term use of acid reflux medications can lead to problems other than a risk of dementia. Studies have found that the use of PPIs can lead to a higher risk of stroke and kidney disease among the elderly. As the use of PPIs changes the environment of the gut, it can make it difficult for the body to absorb certain vitamins and minerals, leading to deficiencies.

In some cases, the use of PPIs might treat the acid reflux quite effectively but lead to other problems in the body, such as developing gastrointestinal infections like C. difficile, a potentially life-threatening condition that can be tough to treat.

Acid reflux medications have also been linked to a greater incidence of bone fractures. To make matters worse, a study from QJM: An International Journal of Medicine found that the use of PPI medications increased the risk of falls among elderly adults.3 That means that not only are you more likely to fall down when using these medications, you are also more likely to suffer from a serious fracture if you do so.

That risk calls for the use of medical alert systems for seniors. If you do suffer a fall, the last thing you want is to deal with lying on the floor for hours while you hope that help arrives soon. With medical alert technology, you don’t have to worry about that – you can simply press the button alarm and get help right away.

What if You are Taking PPIs?

If you are currently on PPIs, talk with your doctor about whether these medications are still right for you. Never stop taking any medication suddenly without your doctor’s permission, as doing so can make the condition you are treating even worse. For instance, if you have been taking PPIs for a long time and then suddenly stop, the rapid increase of acid in your stomach could become very uncomfortable.

Talk to your doctor about other medications that have the potential to solve problems with heartburn and acid reflux. Antacids might help, as might H2 blockers.

Whenever you are dealing with a medical condition like acid reflux or changing medications to treat those conditions, it’s always a good idea to have a fall alert handy. That’s because the condition itself, or the medication to treat it, can cause problems that lead to a higher risk of falls.

For example, a common side effect of medication changes is a feeling of dizziness or weakness while your body adjusts to a new normal. Those side effects are clear in their potential to increase your risk of falls. Not only should you use caution as you move around during the first few days of a new medication, just in case side effects hit without warning, you should also reach for a medical alert device if you do suffer a fall.

An emergency response system that includes fall detection is an even better bet. Tiny fall sensors in the device can recognize when a fall has occurred and alert a 24/7 professional monitoring center right away, without the need to press a button at all. That strong peace of mind can ensure that you can continue to enjoy your life without worry about what happens if you fall down, suffer an accident, or have a medical emergency. Let Alert1 be your constant companion for good health!