Heartburn Drugs Linked to up to 94% Increased Risk of Ischemic Stroke

Ads for heartburn medication are everywhere, with media being littered with ads for “the big guns” like Prilosec, Nexium, Prevacid, and Protonix. They must be safe, right? Well, it’s still important to know the risks – as one study shows that people who take proton pump inhibitors (PPI’s) have a higher risk of stroke.

Lead study author Dr. Thomas Sehested says that, overall, taking PPI’s increase your stroke risk by 21%. [1]

What are PPI’s?

This popular class of drugs works by reducing the amount of acid produced in the stomach, which cuts the amount of stomach acid that backs up into the esophagus, producing that all-too-familiar burning sensation.

Everyone has heartburn from time to time, but a person who experiences heartburn twice a week may have a condition called gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD. Over time, if GERD is not treated, it can cause serious illness and injury to the esophagus, including ulcers, scarring, and even cancer.

These drugs are supposed to help with that.

Mapping the PPI-Stroke Link

In the study, Sehested and colleagues analyzed data from 244,679 adults from Denmark (average age 57) who underwent endoscopy to determine the cause of their stomach pain or indigestion.

During the average of 6 years of follow-up, 9,489 patients experienced a first-time ischemic stroke.

The researchers looked at the patients’ use of 1 of 4 PPI’s – omeprazole (Prilosec), pantoprazole (Protonix), lansoprazole (Prevacid), and esomeprazole (Nexium) – to see if use of the medications was associated with ischemic stroke risk, which occurs when a blood clot blocks the flow of blood to the brain.

Overall, the researchers found that individuals were at 21% greater risk of ischemic stroke when they were using PPI’s compared to when they were not using the drugs.

The team found that there was little or no greater risk of stroke with low doses of PPI’s. What’s more, another group of medications used to treat heartburn – called H2 blockers – were not linked to increased stroke risk.

People taking lansoprazole (Prevacid) had the greatest increased risk of ischemic stroke – 94%. Lansoprazole (Prevacid) fared the best, increasing the risk of ischemic stroke 30%. [2]

In previous studies, PPI use has been associated with heart disease, heart attacks, and dementia. [1]

Cause-and-Effect Not Proven

Because the study was observational, the researchers could not prove cause and effect between PPI use and increased stroke risk. However, the increased risk remained after the team accounted for possible confounding factors, including age, gender, high blood pressure, atrial fibrillation, and use of medications that have been linked to poorer cardiovascular health.

The scientists said that people should be cautious about taking PPI medications, which are now available over the counter.

Sehested said that doctors, too, should be cautious when deciding to prescribe PPI medications to patients, and for how long. He added:

“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.”

Sehested said it’s not clear why PPI’s may be harmful to cardiovascular health. He did point out that the medications might reduce levels of biochemicals which are vital to the maintenance of blood vessels. A lack of these biochemicals in the body could cause hardening of the arteries. [2]

PPI’s have also been linked to increased risks of bone fractures and malabsorption, as well as Clostridum difficile (C. diff), a bacteria known to cause severe, sometimes fatal, diarrhea and inflammation of the colon.

Source: SteadyHealth

If you’re a heartburn sufferer, there are natural ways to get rid of your pain. A 2007 study in Molecular Research and Food Nutrition, researchers found that ginger got rid of heartburn 8 times better than Prevacid. Other people have had success with drinking apple cider vinegar, or consuming a mixture of 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda dissolved in 4 ounces of water.


[1] Medical News Today

[2] Chicago Tribune

Steady Health

Storable Food

This Blood Test can Detect Stroke in 10 Minutes

Researchers at Cornell University’s Baker Institute for Animal Health are working on a test that could detect a stroke in just 10 minutes, and it requires a tiny drop of blood barely big enough to moisten the fingertip.

Stroke is a leading cause of death in the United States, and half of Americans have at least one risk factor. Those factors include high blood pressure, cigarette smoking, diabetes, atrial fibrillation, obesity, and cardiovascular disease.

A stroke occurs when either a blood clot blocks blood flow to the brain (ischemic stroke) or a blood vessel in the brain bursts (hemorrhagic stroke). The brain is starved of oxygen and brain cells begin to die, often resulting in permanent disability or death.

Husham Mishu, MD, chief of neurology and medical director of stroke services at the Atlanta Medical Center, says the ideal window for treating a stroke is 3 to 4.5 hours. The new test could be performed in the ambulance on the way to the hospital, allowing patients to receive more immediate treatment.

The test uses plates coated with enzymes that can detect a substance called neuron-specific enolase (NSE) that increases in the blood following a stroke. When those enzymes bind with to the chemicals, they trigger a chain reaction that leads to the emission of light. Researchers can measure the amount of NSE in the blood based on how much light is emitted. [1]

“Three-quarters of stroke patients suffer from ischemic stroke – a blockage of a blood vessel in the brain. In those cases, time is of the essence, because there is a good drug available, but for a successful outcome it has to be given within three or four hours after the onset of symptoms,” says the study’s lead author Roy Cohen, a research scientist at the Baker Institute.


Cohen says speeding up the diagnostic process could save many people permanent damage caused by ischemic stroke.

“By the time someone identifies the symptoms, gets to the hospital and sits in the emergency room, you don’t have much time to obtain the full benefit of this drug.”

Currently, the test can detect NSE caused by a stroke and other illness, but Cohen and his colleagues hope to soon be able to adapt the test to detect several key chemicals that will allow them to zoom in on strokes and differentiate between ischemic and hemorrhagic types.

They also hope the test can someday be used to detect concussions, heart disease, some dementias, and cancers.

“This system could be tailored to detect multiple biomarkers,” says co-author Alex Travis. “That’s the strength of the technique. You could assemble a microfluidic card based on this technology that could detect 10 biomarkers in different wells, and the readout would be the same for each one: light.”

But the test can only help stroke patients get help sooner if they know the symptoms of stroke to begin with. All too often, people ignore symptoms or assume they’re related to something other than stroke. And knowing how to prevent a stroke always helps, too.

The signs and symptoms of stroke:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, an arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
  • Sudden confusion, difficulty speaking or understanding
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause

Additional Sources:

[1] Cornell Chronicle

[2] Daily Mail

Storable Food