Microscopy & Microtechniques

Can Heartburn Lead to a Stroke?

Dec 08 2016 Read 2432 Times

From ‘twenty-something’ year old young professionals to retired grandparents, heartburn is a condition that affects people of all ages. Also known as acid indigestion, it sees stomach acid leak up into the oesophagus and cause an unpleasant burning sensation in the chest or abdomen.  

Until now, proton pump inhibitors have been the solution of choice for heartburn sufferers. Available as prescriptions and over the counter medication, the drugs actively reduce the amount of acid made by the stomach, and are hailed for being both effective and affordable. But now, researchers from Copenhagen’s Danish Heart Foundation are warning that heartburn drugs could do more harm than good. After analysing almost 250,000 medical records, the team pinpointed a link between the use of heartburn medication, and the risk of stroke.

A link between PPIs and ischemic strokes?

Drawing on records dating from 1997 to 2012, the team found that more than 9500 gastric endoscopy patients suffered from ischemic strokes. They used their findings to back up claims that the risk of stroke is significantly higher in patients being treated with proton pump inhibitors.

While strokes were more common in older and less healthy patients, the researchers confirmed that dosage does play an important role. They maintain that while a daily dose of 10 to 20 milligrams does not increase the risk, ingesting more than 60 mg/day of drugs such as Prevacid carries a 30% risk. Shockingly, more than 80 mg/day of Protonix increases the risk of stroke by a huge 94%.

Heartburn drugs under fire

The research was revealed at the American Heart Association’s annual meeting, and builds on existing research suggesting that some heartburn drugs could increase the risk of dementia, as well as kidney and heart problems.

Thomas Sehested, lead author of the study explains that while proton pump inhibitors can be effective, “their use has been increasing rapidly” over the past decade. As a result, people often end up taking unnecessarily high doses, or relying on them for too long. So, rather than blindly depending on proton pump inhibitors as a heartburn treatment, Sehested is urging patients to engage in in-depth conversations with their doctors, develop bespoke treatment plans and think twice about whether or not it’s worth the risk.

In the same way that the American Heart Association holds its annual meeting to inform, engage and celebrate innovation, the scientific community also boasts a colourful events calendar. ‘The 13th Confocal Raman Imaging Symposium’ spotlights one of this year’s most prestigious events, described by WITec CEO Dr Joachim Koenen as “One of the most informative and interactive symposia of recent years.” Hosted by the leading German microscope manufacturer, the event saw 78 scientists converge to discuss a host of diverse topics, from life science and pharmaceutics to materials research.

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