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Controlling Your Heartburn or Acid Reflux Could Put You at Higher Risk of Early Death

Controlling Your Heartburn or Acid Reflux Could Put You at Higher Risk of Early Death
July 12
14:07 2017

How good is your healthcare policy? How much does it cover for major health issues like heart attacks? If you had a major health issue, such as a heart attack, that put in the hospital for who knows how long, how much out of pocket will it cost you?

Okay, let me ask you this question. Do you suffer from heartburn or are you like millions of other Americans that suffer with acid reflux, also referred to as GERDS? If left untreated for years, heartburn, acid reflux or GERDS can lead to precancerous conditions in the esophagus, referred to as Barrett’s esophagus. This can lead to cancer of the esophagus.

If you do suffer from chronic heartburn, acid reflux or GERDS and what do you take for it? Did you know that the medicine you are taking to control your heartburn, acid reflux or GERDS may increase your chance of an earlier death by as much as 25%?

Medications used to treat heartburn, acid reflux or GERDS are generally broken down into 2 different groups, depending upon how they work. One group are referred to as proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) and the other group is known as H2 blockers. While they may result in the same alleviation of the condition, they work in two totally different ways.

The acid in your stomach is produced by cells in the lining of the stomach that take potassium out of the stomach contents and produce hydrogen ions into the stomach. The hydrogen ions are what makes your stomach acidic.

PPIs function to shut down the proton pumps, thus cutting off the supply of acidic hydrogen ions being released into the stomach. Generally, most PPIs medications take longer to work.

H2 blockers function to block the histamine receptors on the cells in the stomach that produce the acidic hydrogen ions. By binding to the histamine receptors, they block the signals normally received by histamines to produce more acid. H2 blockers tend to work faster than PPIs.

Researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri studied 3.5 million middle-aged Americans that were part of the Veterans Administration. They compared the groups taking PPIs with those taking H2 blockers to treat heartburn. Note here that the researchers did not study those who took over-the-counter PPIs nor did they study any particular brand. They mainly focused on those who took prescription strength PPIs.

What the researchers found may be cause of concern for many of you. For every 500 patients taking PPIs, there was at least one additional death when compared to those taking H2 blockers. They also found that longer a person took a PPI, the greater their risk of premature death.

They were not sure why the increased risk of premature death was greater with use of PPIs compared to H2 blockers, but suspect it may be due to come sort of ‘gene-changing’ effect caused by prolonged use of PPIs.

The researchers did not say that the same higher risk of premature death existed for over-the-counter PPIs, but they also didn’t say that the use of OTC PPIs was risk free either. In case you might be curious is what you are taking is a PPI or H2 blocker, here is a partial list of each:

H2 blockers – Zantac (ranitidine), Pepcid (famotidine), Tagamet (cimetidine) and Axid (nizatidine).

PPIs – Prilosec (omeprazole), Adiphex (rabeprazone), Prevacid (lansoprazole), Nexium (esomeprazole), Dexilant (Dexlansoprazole) and Protonix (pantoprazole).

I am one of the many who do suffer for acid reflux and am glad that Pepcid (famotidine), an H2 blocker, works best for me.

There is another risk that was not mentioned in the study, that should also be considered. If you have ever had any liver disease and take any of the medications for heartburn, acid reflux or GERDS on a regular basis, make sure your doctor checks your liver functions on a regular basis. I contracted hepatitis A by eating food prepared by someone with the disease. Fortunately, it wasn’t a serious case, but is something I have to be careful of. Several of the PPIs caused my liver functions to elevate, indicating that they were not healthy for me to take. Pepcid (famotidine) has had no such effect on my liver functions.

At this point, all I can say is take what you want or what your doctor prescribes for your heartburn, acid reflux or GERDS, but know the risks and make sure that your insurance will cover any complications that arise from taking the medication of choice.

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