A study published online February 15th, 2016 in JAMA Neurology, confirmed an association between proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) and an increased risk for dementia in older patients. PPIs are commonly known as “acid blockers” and are used to treat heartburn and stomach ulcers. Familiar brand name PPIs including Nexium, Protonix, and Prevacid. These medications are among the most frequently prescribed drugs in the United States. Moreover, some research shows that up to 70% of all PPI prescriptions could be inappropriate.

The increased risk for dementia among older adults using PPIs was not large – a 1.4 increased risk. This level of risk could increase the estimated incidence rate of dementia from 6.0% to 8.4%. Although this may not seem like a significant risk, as the United States population ages, ongoing PPI use in older adults could translate into many more cases of dementia.

An important role of the primary care doctor is medication management. This not only means prescribing new medications but also knowing when to discontinue older medications. Dr. Hedman and Dr. Lichti working in the Direct Primary Care model have the time and focus to review medications and see if medications can be discontinued or exchanged for safer alternatives. More importantly, Dr. Hedman and Dr. Lichti focus on lifestyle changes and wellness often means medications can be avoided. This is especially true for PPIs that treat symptoms often avoided with following a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, moderate alcohol use, and not smoking.