July 12, 2013 — The risk of heart disease and heart attacks may be higher for people who take drugs to treat acid reflux, heartburn, and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), according to a new study published in Circulation, the journal of the American Heart Association.
Researchers believe that drugs may cause blood vessels to constrict, reduce blood flow, elevate blood-pressure, and increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. They studied the effects of PPIs in mice and humans, and found that the drugs led to a 25% increase in a chemical called ADMA (asymmetric dimethylarginine). ADMA prevents blood vessels from producing nitric oxide.
Nitric oxide (NO) is produced in the lining of the blood vessels, where is increases blood flow and prevents fatty deposits from sticking to the blood vessel walls. It also prevents arteries from narrowing or getting too thick. Researchers found that mice and humans on PPIs had 30% less relaxation of blood vessels.
Over the last three years, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has published several warnings. In 2007, the FDA reviewed two studies linking Prilosec and Nexium and heart problems. They concluded that long-term use of PPIs was “not likely to be associated with an increased risk of heart problems.” However, in March 2011, the FDA published a Safety Communication because long-term use of PPIs can lower magnesium levels, which can results in irregular heartbeat (arrhythmias), seizures, and muscle spasms.
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