According to a report that was published by the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics, more than 15 million Americans were prescribed proton pump inhibitor medications (PPIs) to treat their heartburn symptoms in 2013. Many of these drugs are available over-the-counter. They work by lowering the amount of stomach acid that is produced.
A new study that was conducted in Germany reports that there is evidence that the use of PPIs may affect the cognitive functions of seniors and raise their risks of dementia. Know the difference between forgetfulness and dementia. This new study found that seniors who were 75 years or older who regularly took PPIs had a 44 percent increased risk of dementia when compared with seniors who were not taking PPIs. According to the researchers, PPIs seem to be connected to a rise in the levels of beta-amyloid proteins in the brain. These proteins are known for forming the plaques and tangles that are associated with Alzheimer’s disease. PPI use has also been connected to vitamin B12 deficiency, which has been linked to cognitive decline.
It should be noted that this study only found an association between prescription antacids and dementia, and researchers did not show that the two have a cause-and-effect relationship. For now, researchers want to try to encourage doctors to cut down on what they see as the over-prescription of PPIs, in the hopes that the number of new dementia diagnoses will drop.
Many Americans have been prescribed a PPI in order to treat a minor case of heartburn or acid reflux. According to the study, as many as 25 percent of people who have used prescription antacids long-term could stop taking the medications without experiencing increased symptoms, but you should always consult your doctor before you start or stop a medication. To cut down on heartburn and acid reflux symptoms naturally, try eating smaller meals, stay sitting upright for a few hours after you have eaten each meal, and avoid alcohol, caffeine, and chocolate.