Long-Term Use of Popular Acid Reflux Medication Linked to Increased Risk of Dementia

Long-Term Use of Popular Acid Reflux Medication Linked to Increased Risk of Dementia

Last Updated: 10 August 2023By

A new study has raised concerns about the long-term use of a common type of acid reflux medication and its potential association with an increased risk of dementia. The research, published in the medical journal “Neurology,” revealed that individuals who have been taking a certain class of acid reflux drugs for over four years may face a significantly higher risk of developing cognitive decline later in life.

Understanding Acid Reflux and its Treatment: Acid reflux occurs when stomach acid backs up into the esophagus, often after meals or when lying down, leading to a condition known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) are medications that work by reducing stomach acid production. They are commonly prescribed to manage acid reflux, ulcers, and other related digestive issues.

The Study and Its Findings:

The study included over 5,700 participants without a history of cognitive impairment at the outset. These individuals were followed for an average of 5.5 years. The researchers assessed the participants’ cognitive health, considering factors such as age, gender, race, high blood pressure, and diabetes.


The results indicated that individuals who used PPIs for at least 4.4 years had a 33% higher likelihood of developing cognitive decline compared to those who never used the medication. Notably, the study did not include individuals who used over-the-counter versions of these drugs, such as under brand names like Prilosec, Nexium, or Prevacid.

The Implications and Recommendations:

The study has raised important questions about the potential risks associated with long-term PPI use. However, it’s essential to interpret these findings carefully, as there may be other factors at play that could influence the relationship between PPIs and cognitive decline. The study’s design did not account for certain variables that could impact the results, such as vitamin B12 deficiency, depression, socioeconomic status, or the presence of H. pylori, a bacterium associated with stomach infections.

While the study does not definitively establish PPIs as a direct cause of dementia, it does highlight the need for careful consideration when prescribing these medications, especially for long-term use. Patients should discuss their medication regimen with their healthcare providers, including any over-the-counter drugs they may be taking. It’s crucial to weigh the benefits and risks of any treatment, particularly when dealing with a medication that may impact cognitive health.

It’s important to exercise caution when using acid reflux medications and to consider alternative approaches when appropriate. Gastroenterologists and healthcare providers recommend the lowest effective dose for individuals with conditions like severe Barrett’s esophagus, peptic ulcers, or those requiring acid suppression for specific medical reasons. Lifestyle modifications, such as reducing acid-producing foods, not eating within three hours of bedtime, elevating the head during sleep, and managing weight, can also play a significant role in managing acid reflux and minimizing associated risks.