Friday, January 12, 2007

Long-term use of common acid reflux medications increases risk of hip fracture

A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that long-term use of certain acid reflux/heartburn medications was associated with an increased risk of hip fracture. The medications in question, known as proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), are effective at reducing production of stomach acid, but in so doing, they also interfere with dietary calcium absorption, and may be related to an increased risk of osteoporosis and bone fracture.

The results of this study question the advisability of using PPIs on a regular basis over the long-term (one year or more), particularly at their higher doses. This does not mean people who are prescribed these medications should stop using them. Acid reflux is a significant medical condition that is associated with an increased risk for esophageal cancer. In many cases the medications are known to not only reduce acid reflux but aid in repair of the damaged esophagus.

However, there are possibly many people with occasional heartburn or less severe reflux that are taking these medications unnecessarily. There are other approaches to dealing with heartburn. First and foremost, people who experience heartburn should try to prevent it through simple lifestyle changes such as eating smaller meals, avoiding foods that cause heartburn, not eating meals right before going to bed, and reducing alcohol intake.

In addition, properly made chewable calcium supplements can often be used effectively for relief of upset stomach, sour stomach, occasional heartburn and occasional acid indigestion. This approach is particularly attractive in light of concerns over osteoporosis, especially if the chewable calcium supplements used are complete and include vitamin D, magnesium, and other bone health nutrients. Importantly, if symptoms of acid reflux persist, it is important to work with your doctor to address the situation.