Many people turn to antacids to help with heartburn and stomach aches. But a new study shows that taking them daily may increase one’s chance of having a heart attack.
Millions of Americans use antacids on a regular basis. Some of the most popular drugs–including Nexium, Prilosec, and Prevacid – are proton pump inhibitors (or PPIs), which are often prescribed by doctors to help patients dealing with gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD).
The study, which was carried out by a research team under Stanford University’s Nigam H. Shah, involved an examination of clinical data associated with nearly three million patients. The researchers found that over-the-counter antacids can increase the risk of heart attack by anywhere from 16 to 21-percent.
“People who take medication to suppress stomach acid are at greater risk of developing myocardial infarction, commonly known as heart attack,” Shah said. “By looking at data from people who were given these drugs primarily for acid reflux and had no prior history of heart disease, our data-mining pipeline signals an association with a higher rate of heart attacks…Our results demonstrate that PPIs appear to be associated with elevated risk of heart attack in the general population.”
It’s an important finding given that, previously, experts had insisted that only people with preexisting heart conditions were more at risk when taking PPIs.
“Our report raises concerns that these drugs, which are available over the counter and are among the most commonly prescribed drugs in the world, may not be as safe as we previously assumed,” Shah’s team concluded.
The good news is that another type of antacid drug–H2 blockers, such as Zantac and Tagamet–showed no sign of increasing one’s chance of having a heart attack.