Some heartburn drugs can raise your stroke risk

November 17, 2016 Providence Health Team

A class of drugs commonly used to treat heartburn can increase your risk of stroke, according to a Danish study.

Researchers found people who received high doses of proton pump inhibitors, or PPIs, showed an increased risk of ischemic stroke – a stroke caused by a blood clot that blocks the flow of blood to or within the brain.

This increased risk of stroke was found in people who had received any of the following four types of heartburn drugs:

  • Omeprazole (Prilosec)
  • Pantoprazole (Protonix)
  • Lansoprazole (Prevacid)
  • Esomeprazole (Nexium)

There was no increased risk of stroke shown with a different class of heartburn medications known as H2 blockers, including famotidine (Pepcid) and ranitidine (Zantac).

Thomas Sehested, M.D., of the Danish Heart Foundation and lead author of the study, noted that PPIs are available over the counter in the United States.

“At one time, PPIs were thought to be safe, without major side effects,” he said, “This study further questions the cardiovascular safety of these drugs.”

Sehested said further research is needed to definitively establish cause and effect between PPIs and stroke.

Other ways to handle heartburn

Alternatives to drugs may alleviate the causes and symptoms of heartburn for many people.

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases says people can relieve symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux by changing their diet to reduce the volume of fatty foods they eat. The institute also recommends eating smaller, more frequent meals rather than three large meals a day.

If you experience heartburn or reflux, the institute suggests you avoid eating or drinking:

  • Chocolate
  • Coffee
  • Peppermint
  • Greasy or spicy foods
  • Tomatoes or tomato products, such as ketchup
  • Alcoholic drinks

You may also want to avoid late-night snacks, lying down after eating, and tight waistbands or belts. Some people find relief by elevating the head of their mattress. This is best done by putting a foam wedge under the mattress. Avoid propping yourself up with pillows because that will increase the pressure on your abdomen.

If you experience the symptoms of heartburn, talk to your health care provider about the safest ways to treat your symptoms. You can locate a provider in the Providence network in our multistate directory.

To learn more

We’ve written previously on the subject of heartburn and GERD:

And the Providence Health Plan offers some practical tips and expert advice:

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases’ page on gastroesophageal reflux is here.

The study was presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions conference in New Orleans. The AHA wrote a story describing the study’s results.

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