The study, published in Neurology which is the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, did not prove that acid reflux drugs called proton pump inhibitors cause dementia but showed an association.
The study only looked at prescription medications and over-the-counter medications were excluded. Proton pump inhibitors reduce stomach acid by targeting the enzymes in the stomach lining that produce that acid.
“Proton pump inhibitors are a useful tool to help control acid reflux, however, long-term use has been linked in previous studies to a higher risk of stroke, bone fractures and chronic kidney disease,” said study author Kamakshi Lakshminarayan from the University of Minnesota School of Public Health in Minneapolis, “Still, some people take these drugs regularly, so we examined if they are linked to a higher risk of dementia. While we did not find a link with short-term use, we did find a higher risk of dementia associated with long-term use of these drugs,” she added.
The study included 5,712 people, age 45 and older, who did not have dementia at the start of the study.
They had an average age of 75.
Researchers determined if participants took acid reflux drugs by reviewing their medications during study visits and during yearly phone calls.
Participants were then followed for a median duration of 5.5 years.
During this time, 585 people, or 10 per cent, developed dementia.
After adjusting for factors such as age, sex and race, as well as health-related factors such as high blood pressure and diabetes, researchers found people who had been taking acid reflux drugs for more than 4.4 years had a 33 per cent higher risk of developing dementia than people who never took the drugs.
Researchers did not find a higher risk of dementia for people who took the drugs for fewer than 4.4 years.
“More research is needed to confirm our findings and explore reasons for the possible link between long-term proton pump inhibitor use and a higher risk of dementia,” said Lakshminarayan.
While there are various ways to treat acid reflux, such as taking antacids, maintaining a healthy weight, and avoiding late meals and certain foods, different approaches may not work for everyone.
“It is important that people taking these medications speak with their doctor before making any changes, to discuss the best treatment for them, and because stopping these drugs abruptly may result in worse symptoms,” she noted.
The study was supported by the National Institutes of Health, including the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.