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If you take drugs for heartburn, you may be setting yourself up for a heart attack.
Drugs called proton pump inhibitors, (including Prilosec, Nexium and Prevacid) reduce stomach acid and are used to treat heartburn – technically known as gastric reflux.
If you take one of these drugs, you’re hardly alone. Sales of these pharmaceuticals in the U.S., add up to an eye-popping $14 billion a year, so it’s probable that if you have stomach issues, these are being pushed on you by your doctor … and certainly the ads on TV.
But despite the big push on you to take them, these drugs can have serious side effects. Yes, they reduce stomach acid, but that means your digestive tract has more trouble absorbing nutrients and killing pathogens that enter the stomach.
And now researchers at Houston Methodist University and Stanford have shown that when you take these drugs, your risk for suffering a heart attack increases by up to 21 percent.
The problems seems to start with the effect these drugs have on your blood vessels. The vessels are lined with tissue called endothelium that is designed to let blood cells flow freely around the body without sticking to the vessel walls. But the proton pump inhibitors PPIs make the vessel lining stickier – that can lead to blood cells clumping together and forming dangerous clots.
Those clots can lead to a heart attack.
“Our earlier work identified that the PPIs can adversely affect the endothelium, the Teflon-like lining of the blood vessels,” says researcher John Cooke. “That observation led us to hypothesize that anyone taking PPIs may be at greater risk for heart attack. Accordingly, in two large populations of patients, we asked what happened to people that were on PPIs versus other medications for the stomach.”
Natural help for heartburn
If you have trouble with heartburn, there are some easy, natural ways to deal with the problem.
First, when you suffer with acid, try taking a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to quell the discomfort. Or you can down a glass of warm water mixed with a teaspoon of sea salt.
Adding lemon juice to your meals can help, as can eating less food at each meal.
For more tips on dealing with heartburn, check out Dr. Wiley’s article, Refuge From Acid Reflux.