If you suffer from acid reflux or heartburn and take proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) to ease the symptoms of either, or both, you may be increasing your risk of having an ischemic stroke, according to research presented at a recent American Heart Association conference.
With particular reference to the United States, PPIs are among the most prescribed medicines in that country and are widely available over the counter. The study's lead researcher, Dr. Thomas Sehested, of the Danish Heart Foundation, said that these drugs have been associated with unhealthy vascular functions, including heart attacks, kidney disease and dementia.
Some 85% of all strokes are ischemic strokes. In other words, they occur when a blood clot blocks the artery that supplies the brain with blood, and the study found that patients who took PPIs were at a 21% higher risk of an ischemic stroke than those who did not.
The study analyzed the medical records of almost 245,000 Danish adults that underwent endoscopies to find the cause of their stomach pain or indigestion. They were aged 57 on average, at the time of the study's commencement. When the adults returned for a follow-up after six years, some 9,500 of them had experienced a first-time ischemic stroke during the intervening years.
Dr. Sehested and his colleagues assessed the records to see if the adults' strokes occurred while they were taking any of four commonly-prescribed PPIs, namely omeprazole (Prilosec), pantoprazole (Protonix), lansoprazole (Prevacid) and esomeprazole (Nexium).
It was this assessment that led to the conclusion that adults who took PPIs were 21% more likely to suffer an ischemic stroke compared to those that did not. The study also established that those who took PPIs in the highest recorded doses were between 30% and 94% more likely to suffer an ischemic stroke.
Seeing as this study was purely observational, there is no proven cause and effect between PPI use and increased stroke risk. Nevertheless, its researchers have suggested that patients using PPIs should do so with caution. Their doctors should also consider whether PPI use is warranted, as well as the duration of use.
If you happen to be a heartburn or indigestion sufferer, many medical professionals recommend that you make a few lifestyle changes rather than turning to PPIs for relief. These lifestyle changes include losing weight, quitting smoking, and cutting back on spicy or fatty foods. Adding organic produce to your diet is always a good idea too.