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Many people turn toward prescription strength heartburn medication to control their heartburn, but popping the pills might not come without consequence. Research has found that medications like Nexium, Prilosec, and Prevacid (all of which work as proton pump inhibitors), can increase the risk of developing dementia by as much as 44 percent.

This research comes from the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases in Bonn, and it’s pretty important stuff considering that a reported 15 million Americans use these medications for their heartburn.

The study took place over a seven year period and followed 73,679 men and women over the age of 75. None of the men studied had dementia to begin with. During the course of the study 29,510 of those people ended up developing dementia, and 59 percent of those diagnosed had two different kinds of dementia. Of the people who developed dementia, 2,950 of them were regularly taking the PPI medications, putting the risk at 44 percent higher.

Some research that has been done on mice has found that PPI’s can increase the levels of beta-amyloid in the body, which is a protein found in the brain of people with dementia that actually causes damage in there.

The problem is a pretty simple one to explain, although not necessarily to fix. The PPI’s stop the stomach by secreting so much stomach acid, but the stomach acid does more than just cause heartburn, it also is crucial for digesting food as well as handling pathogens.

Without the stomach acid you are risk for all kinds of different infections, bacteria, and even nutritional deficiencies from not getting enough out of the food you eat.

The great news is, that most people who take these medications don’t actually need them, and that when they are stopped the increased risk for dementia stops as well.

According to NPR:

“They could get rid of their heartburn by making lifestyle changes, such as losing weight and cutting back on alcohol, caffeine and spicy and fatty foods. And many people stay on them a lot longer than they need them, he says. PPIs are usually supposed to be taken for two to eight weeks, although doctors may recommend more.”

Heartburn is generally quite manageable with some lifestyle changes, which is a much better option than popping pills that could cause you to have dementia.