Fact or Myth: Can Heartburn Drugs Increase Heart Attack Risk?

This is a FACT.

And a disconcerting one when you consider that 20 million Americans regularly take heartburn drugs to ease the excruciating symptoms of heartburn. According to Mitchell Katz, director of the San Francisco Department of Public Health, “about 60 to 70 percent of people taking these drugs have mild heartburn and shouldn’t be on them.”

heartburn drugsLet’s Set the Stage…

Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) like Nexium, Prilosec, Prevacid, etc., are a class of heartburn drugs that rake in around $14 billion a year in sales. They first came onto the scene in the 80s—not as an over-the-counter (OTC) drug as they are today, but as a prescription drug to be taken no more than once a week.

Now, these OTC pills come with a recommended dosage of 2 weeks at a time, for no more than 3 times a year, but users tend to dip into the PPIs far more frequently. If taken longer than suggested, PPIs can lead to pneumonia, bone loss, hip fractures, and Clostridium difficile, an extremely unfriendly intestinal bacteria.

Moreover, PPIs merely treat the symptoms and not the cause of heartburn. In fact, they can even make your condition worse! You see, PPIs inhibit the production of stomach acid…but approximately 95% of heartburn problems are caused not by too much stomach acid, but by too little.

The PPI-Heart Attack Link

Recent research is validating the link between heart attacks and PPI use. PPIs lower levels of nitric oxide in your blood vessels. Nitric oxide helps protect against cardiovascular events by relaxing your blood vessels.

Interested in the action of PPIs on cardiovascular health, Stanford researchers analyzed data from more than 16 million medical records on 2.9 million patients. Results showed that patients with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) who took PPIs had a 16% increased risk for heart attack.

As reported by the authors in the journal PLOS ONE: “Survival analysis in a prospective cohort found a two-fold increased risk of cardiovascular mortality in PPI users… H2 blockers, which include famotidine (Pepcid AC) and ranitidine (Zantac), were not associated with increased cardiovascular risk…Consistent with our pre-clinical findings that PPIs may adversely impact vascular function, our data-mining study supports the association of PPI exposure with risk for MI in the general population.”

Normalize Your Stomach Acid Naturally

Experts recommend lowering your dose of heartburn drugs gradually instead of quitting cold turkey. While you’re transitioning away from PPI use, try the following tips to help normalize your stomach acid and get your heartburn under control:

  1. Trade in table salt for Himalayan Pink Salt, which helps to increase your body’s production of stomach acid. (Remember, too little stomach acid is the primary cause of heartburn in most cases.)
  2. Eat sauerkraut, a fermented food that helps balance and nourish your gut with beneficial bacteria.
  3. Drink one tablespoon of raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar diluted in 8 ounces of water a day.
  4. If you’re in severe pain from heartburn symptoms, neutralize stomach acid with ½ to 1 teaspoon of baking soda diluted in 8 ounces of water.
  5. Add some aloe vera juice and ginger root tea to your daily health regimen to help balance stomach acid.