The list of frightening side effects associated with popular heartburn medications like Prilosec, Prevacid and Nexium keeps growing. A new study found they raise the likelihood of stroke. While the degree of risk increase varies with the dose and the drug, it ranges as high as 79 percent.
Approximately 20 million Americans take the prescription or over-the-counter form of this class of drugs known as proton pump inhibitors (PPIs). Because the medications have a history of causing vascular problems, researchers in Denmark explored their effect on ischemic stroke, which is the most common type and is caused by a blood clot in the brain. The results presented at the American Heart Associations’ Scientific Sessions 2016 led to the most serious warning yet about hazards of the drugs.
High Doses Linked to Considerable Risk
In the study, scientists examined the records of 250 million indigestion patients who took one of four PPIs: Prevacid, Prilosec, Nexium or Protonix. Approximately 10,000 patients suffered a first-time stroke during the follow-up period of six years. The authors determined the overall stroke risk increased by 21 percent. At the lowest dose, they found no or little stroke risk elevation. However, at the highest dose, they found the risk rose 33 percent with Prevacid and Prilosec, 50 percent with Nexium and 79 percent with Protonix. No stroke risk was noted with another class of heartburn medications called H2 blockers, which includes Zantac and Pepcid.
“We know that from prior studies that a lot of individuals are using PPIs for a much longer time than indicated, which is especially true for elderly patients,” the researchers said. “At one time, PPIs were thought to be safe, without major side effects. This study further questions the cardiovascular safety of these drugs.”
Other Risks of PPIs
Because of earlier studies revealing other threats to health posed by the medications, the FDA has issued several warnings about them in recent years. Problems associated with them include low magnesium levels and an increased risk of fractures to the spine, wrist and hip. In addition, they are linked to Clostridium difficile, a microbe that causes diarrhea.
Research shows PPIs may also raise the risk of heart attacks, kidney disease and dementia. A 2015 study in PLOS ONE suggests they may increase the risk of heart attack by 20 percent, and a 2016 study in JAMA Internal Medicine indicates they may elevate the risk of kidney disease by 20 to 50 percent. Research published in JAMA Neurology in 2016 shows PPIs may heighten the likelihood of dementia by 16 percent.
The Drug-Free Approach for Heartburn
Noted natural health practitioner Dr. Joseph Mercola warns against using PPIs because of their multiple dangers. He advocates addressing heartburn through healthy lifestyle practices that include maintaining an optimal weight and eating a diet plentiful in vegetables along with fermented and unprocessed foods. Mercola recommends preventive natural remedies such as apple cider vinegar, ginger root tea and organic coconut oil. He also advises against wearing tight clothing and eating foods that trigger the condition.
Mary West is a natural health enthusiast, as she believes this area can profoundly enhance wellness. She is the creator of a natural healing website where she focuses on solutions to health problems that work without side effects. You can visit her site and learn more at http://www.alternativemedicinetruth.com. Ms. West is also the author of Fight Cancer Through Powerful Natural Strategies.