Chronic Use of Acid Reflux Drugs Could Increase the Risk of Dementia

According to research, individuals who use acid reflux drugs known as proton pump inhibitors for 4-and-a-half years or more could have an increased risk of dementia in comparison to individuals who don’t use these drugs.1✅ JOURNAL REFERENCE
DOI: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000207747

The study only considered prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs were not included. The study doesn’t prove that acid reflux drugs result in dementia; it just shows a connection.

Acid reflux is a condition when stomach acid rises back into the esophagus, typically when lying down or after a meal. Individuals with acid reflux might experience ulcers and heartburn. Recurrent acid reflux could develop into gastroesophageal reflux disease, otherwise known as GERD, which can result in esophageal cancer.

Stomach acid is reduced with proton pump inhibitors by concentrating on the stomach lining enzymes that produce the acid.

They can be useful for helping to control acid reflux; chronic usage has however been associated in other research with an increased risk of chronic kidney disease, bone fractures, and stroke.

Nevertheless, some individuals take these drugs routinely, so the researchers looked at whether they are associated with an increase in dementia risk. Although they didn’t find a connection with short-term use, they did find an increase in dementia risk linked to chronic use of these medications.

The study consisted of 5,712 individuals aged 45 and older with an average age of 75 who were dementia-free at the beginning of the study.

It was established if individuals used acid reflux drugs by documenting their medication usage during study visits as well as yearly phone calls. Out of the total participants, 1,490 individuals had used the drugs.

Individuals were then separated into 4 groups according to whether they had used the drugs as well as for how long they had used them: individuals who didn’t take the medications; individuals who used the medications for up to 2.8 years; individuals who used them between 2.8 and 4.4 years; and individuals who used them for over 4.4 years.

Individuals were then monitored for an average of 5.5 years. Throughout this time, 585 individuals were diagnosed with dementia.

Out of the 4,222 individuals who didn’t use the medications, 415 individuals were diagnosed with dementia, or 19 cases/1,000 person-years, which represents the number of individuals in the study as well as how long each individual participates in the study. Out of the 497 individuals who used the medications for over 4.4 years, 58 individuals were diagnosed with dementia, or 24 cases/1,000 person-years.

After factors were adjusted for which included race, sex, and age, in addition to health-related factors which included diabetes and hypertension, it was observed that individuals who had been using acid reflux medications for over 4.4 years had a 33% increase in dementia risk compared to individuals who never used the medications.

An increased risk of dementia wasn’t found for individuals who used the medications for less than 4.4 years.

More research is necessary to confirm the results and take a look at reasons for the possible association between chronic proton pump inhibitor usage and an increased risk of dementia.

Although there are different methods for treating acid reflux, which include maintaining a healthy weight, taking antacids, and avoiding specific foods and late meals, different approaches might not work for everybody.

Individuals using these drugs must consult with their physician before making any treatment changes because quitting these medications suddenly could cause even worse symptoms.

A study limitation was that individuals were asked once yearly about their use of medications, so usage between annual check-ins was estimated. If individuals quit acid reflux drugs and restarted in between check-ins, usage estimation might not have been accurate. It was also not possible to establish if individuals used over-the-counter medications.

Chronic Use Of Acid Reflux Drugs Could Increase The Risk Of Dementia

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