German researchers have found that a class of heartburn medication, Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs), could be related to an increased risk of dementia. These PPIs include Prilosec, Nexium and Prevacid. The German study found that the PPIs affect levels of proteins and B12 related which can lead to cognitive decline. Their research suggests that people 75 and older who regularly take these PPIs have a 44% higher risk of getting dementia. This study did not find a direct link, but rather an association.
In 2013, more than 15 million Americans were taking prescription PPIs. These drugs are also available over the counter, suggesting that the number of Americans taking them was even higher. This leads to overuse of these drugs, because they are then used for minor cases of heartburn, for which they were not intended.
Early signs of dementia to look out for consist of the following:
- Memory loss that disrupts daily life (i.e. forgetting important dates or asking for the same information continuously)
- Difficulty with solving problems (i.e. balancing a checkbook)
- Confusion with time and place
- Difficulty judging distance
- Problem following conversations (i.e. calling objects by the wrong name or repeating themselves)
- Losing items and can’t retrace steps
- Good judgment decisions decrease
- Mood swings and personality changes
- Begin to withdraw from social activities and work (i.e. can’t remember how to do a hobby)
If you or a loved one is experiencing any of these symptoms, schedule an appointment with your physician to be professionally diagnosed.