Acid Suppressors Bad for Your Heart?

Your gut may not be the only reason to stop taking a PPI – your heart may thank you too.

Proton pump inhibitors (PPI’s) are some of the most commonly prescribed drugs in the world. They block acid production in the stomach, which reduces the symptoms of heartburn and GERD, but they can also lead to malabsorption of important nutrients, osteoporosis, and bacterial overgrowth.

A recent study from Stanford University (insert link here) found a link between taking proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) and an increased risk of heart attack in the general population of 16%. The study mined data from 16 million medical records corresponding to nearly 3 million U.S. adults. The increased risk may be due to a reduction in nitric oxide in blood vessel walls, which constricts the vessels and restricts blood flow.

Despite the dramatic findings, this study does have some limitations: PPI’s are often used in sicker patients who may already be at higher risk for heart attacks, and symptoms like angina can mimic heartburn, so some patients with actual heart disease may have been misclassified. Nonetheless, given the importance of stomach acid in digesting food, absorbing nutrients, and keeping harmful bacteria in check, this may be a good time to focus on lifestyle modifications – like cutting back on dairy and eating smaller meals – which can be enormously helpful in treating heartburn, and more judicious use of PPI’s.

By: Dr. Robynne Chutkan