Long-Term Use of Acid Reflux Medication Associated with Increased Risk of Dementia, Finds Study


9/4/20232 min read

Long-Term Use of Acid Reflux Medication Associated with Increased Risk of Dementia, Finds Study
Long-Term Use of Acid Reflux Medication Associated with Increased Risk of Dementia, Finds Study

A new study published in the journal for the American Academy of Neurology has found a potential link between long-term use of popular acid reflux drugs and a higher risk of dementia. The study focused on patients who take prescription medications called proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), such as omeprazole (Prilosec), esomeprazole (Nexium), and lansoprazole (Prevacid).

Acid reflux occurs when stomach acid flows back into the esophagus, causing irritation and discomfort. While it is common to experience occasional acid reflux, frequent or chronic acid reflux can lead to a condition known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). If left untreated, GERD can lead to complications such as esophageal cancer.

PPIs are commonly prescribed to treat frequent acid reflux, stomach ulcers, and other digestive tract issues. These medications work by targeting and inhibiting the enzymes responsible for acid production in the stomach lining. However, previous studies have shown that long-term use of PPIs is associated with an increased risk of stroke, bone fractures, and chronic kidney disease.

In this recent study, researchers aimed to investigate whether there is a connection between long-term PPI use and the risk of dementia. The study included 5,712 participants aged 45 and older who had not previously been diagnosed with dementia symptoms. The average age of the participants was 75 years. Over-the-counter versions of the medication were excluded from the study.

The participants were split into four groups based on their duration of PPI use: up to 2.8 years, 2.8 to 4.4 years, over 4.4 years, or no PPI use. The study lasted for five and a half years, and the researchers adjusted for various factors including age, sex, race, and health-related conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes.

The findings of the study revealed that those who took PPIs for 4.4 years or longer had a 33% higher risk of developing dementia compared to individuals who never took the medications. However, there was no evidence of an increased risk of dementia for those who used PPIs for less than 4.4 years.

It is important to note that the study has some limitations. The accuracy of the estimations may be affected if participants were on and off the medications between check-ins. Additionally, the study did not account for whether participants used over-the-counter versions of the medication.

The researchers hope to expand on their findings in future studies to further investigate the potential link between PPI use and dementia. In the meantime, the lead author of the study advises acid reflux patients to consult with their healthcare providers before making any changes to their medication regimen. Abruptly stopping PPIs may result in worsened symptoms, so it is crucial to discuss the best treatment options with a medical professional.

While there are various ways to manage acid reflux, including lifestyle changes such as maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding late meals and certain trigger foods, and taking antacids, not all approaches may work for everyone. Individuals should work closely with their healthcare providers to find the most suitable treatment plan for their specific needs.