Heartburn drugs are extremely common in today’s society. They offer quick pain relief for acid reflux, indigestion, and heartburn—so most people have concluded that they are perfectly safe to use.
A recent study from Stanford University, however, shows that a common category of heartburn medication called proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) may raise the risk of a heart attack by 15% to 20%!
Common brands of these medications include Prilosec, Nexium, and Prevacid. The negative effect of PPIs is quite dangerous, as they are commonly prescribed or available as over-the-counter medications. It’s estimated that PPIs generate about $14.0 billion in annual sales, and are taken by people who suffer from both frequent and seldom heartburn. PPIs can easily be identified by looking for ingredients ending in “-prazole.”
Natural Remedies for Heartburn
If acid reflux is a problem for you, the effects of heartburn drugs should be concerning. And although the results of this study make an association between heart attacks and PPIs, it does not prove cause and effect. The reality is that if you’re experiencing regular heartburn, it’s likely due to your diet.For most people, the best cure for heartburn is a lifestyle and dietary change. Overeating and a diet high in fatty foods can lead to heartburn. However, improving what and how you eat can easily circumvent this. To limit heartburn and improve overall health, aim to exercise more and incorporate more fruits, vegetables, and “base” (non-acidic) foods into your diet to lower stomach acid; also eat smaller, more frequent meals and limit alcohol consumption.
However, if you do experience heartburn occasionally, there are some things you can do:
- Chewing gum: Research shows that chewing gum after a meal, or when experiencing heartburn, is a good way to settle your stomach. If you’re experiencing acid reflux, you might want to try chewing gum—as an added bonus, it will provide you with fresh breath!
- Baking soda: Baking soda can also help settle heartburn after a meal. Mix half to one teaspoon of baking soda with a glass of water and drink it. Baking soda is a base, which can help restore pH levels and bring down stomach acidity. This isn’t a remedy you’ll want to use too often, though. The high salt content of baking soda could lead to trouble, like a ruptured stomach (although this is dependent on underlying health issues and will only happen to a small amount of the population). Only use this method if you have normal blood pressure readings and no warning signs of cardiac disease.
Tips to Lower Your Risk for Heartburn and Heart Attacks
To lower your risk for a heart attack, focus on diet and exercise. The risk for a cardiovascular event increases with a waistline over 40 inches (for men) and 35 inches (for women). But even losing 10 pounds can cause significant improvements to blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart attack.
Keeping your heart and blood pumping is important for heart health and weight, so include exercise into your daily regime. Getting 20 to 30 minutes of moderate exercise five days of the week can greatly reduce your risk of heart attack. If you’re not able to do 20 to 30 minutes all at once, start with five to 10 minutes for one exercise session, and do another five to 10 minutes later in the day. Do this until you’re able to increase your exercise capacity. Activities like walking, biking, and swimming—or anything where you’re moving—is enough to yield benefits.
The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet is also a great way to lower acid reflux and heart attack risk. It is low in processed foods, thus low in sodium, and high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, potassium, and lean protein. Keep a food diary so you can see what you’re eating, and be sure to avoid processed foods. Even though they may not taste overly salty, processed foods are laden with high sodium levels that can increase your risk of a heart attack.
Keep Your Heart Healthy!
Although acid reflux and heart attacks are not directly related, the fact that PPIs might increase your chances of a heart attack is rather concerning. By adopting better eating habits, you can lower your chances of getting a heart attack. Try adopting a more heart-healthy lifestyle and you’ll likely feel better all-round.
Seidman, B., “Some common heartburn drugs may increase heart attack risk,” CBS News web site, June 10, 2015; http://www.cbsnews.com/news/common-heartburn-drugs-may-increase-heart-attack-risk/.
Moazzez, R., et al., “The effect of chewing sugar-free gum on gastro-esophageal reflux,” Journal of Dental Research 2005; 84(11): 1062-1065.