Alzheimer’s and related forms of dementia are spreading like wildfire. Dementia currently affects 47.5 million people worldwide, and 7.7 million new cases are reported every year.
Some mainstream medical sources still insist that dementia is a simple fact of growing old, but this stubborn viewpoint makes less and less sense. After all, younger and younger people are being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s (with some patients exhibiting full-blown symptoms in their early forties).
Younger and younger people are being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s (with some patients exhibiting full-blown symptoms in their early forties).
While the Alzheimer’s Association is still sticking to its mantra that the disease “cannot be prevented, cured, or slowed,” even the World Health Organization now acknowledges that “it is not a normal part of aging.”
More and more people know the truth: lifestyle choices hugely affect your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. This should come as positive news, because it means that the condition can be prevented (or even treated) by taking proper measures and precautions.
We still have a long way to go before we obtain a comprehensive understanding of all the risk factors for cognitive degeneration. We do, however, know that some things are best avoided if you want to keep your brain sharp and healthy well into old age.
Beware of heartburn medications
For example, research is revealing that some pharmaceutical medications can put you on the fast track to developing Alzheimer’s disease.
A class of heartburn medications called proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) is one of the worst culprits. And sadly, PPIs are among the most widely used medications in the world for heartburn (also known as GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disorder).
Some PPIs, like the popular drug Nexium, are now available without a prescription—a policy change that has further increased its already irresponsible usage. Consumers now spend more than $14 billion on these drugs every year.
Doctors have been aware of the dangers of PPIs for some time—their packaging insert clearly warns the user of its side effects, which include headaches, joint pain, rashes and other skin issues, anxiety, dizziness, constipation, severe diarrhea, malabsorption of nutrients, nausea, and other stomach issues (yes, drugs used to treat stomach issues can cause stomach issues).
But new research has many doctors worried about even more frightening health risks that accompany the use of these powerful drugs.
A brand new 2016 study uncovered something shocking: taking proton pump inhibitors can increase your chances of developing dementia by 44%
A brand new 2016 study uncovered something shocking: taking proton pump inhibitors can increase your chances of developing dementia by 44%.
Though this frightening correlation is clear, we’re not yet precisely sure why this class of drugs is so detrimental to brain function. One contributing factor, though, is the aforementioned tendency for PPIs to inhibit the body’s ability to properly absorb nutrients.
One prominent result of this side effect is B12 deficiency, which may contribute to the increased risk of cognitive decline (studies have shown a strong correlation between B12 deficiency and brain dysfunction).
And unfortunately, the list of severe (and not uncommon) side effects associated with PPIs doesn’t end there. A study published in Circulation Research demonstrated that Nexium (one of the leading brand name PPIs) can leave arteries severely damaged—a condition affectionately referred to as endothelial senescence. Such artery damage dramatically increases the risk of heart attack, and may even serve as a prominent risk factor for dementia.
Yet another study found that taking PPI’s increases the risk of kidney disease. And the more you take, the more your risk increases—those who take these medications twice daily are 50% more likely to experience chronic kidney disease, and even kidney failure.
There’s a better way
The worst part of this whole situation is that PPIs don’t even do anything to heal the underlying causes of GERD. They simply provide temporary relief from symptoms, and cause even more severe health issues in the process.
The key is to uncover the practices in your life that are causing heartburn in the first place—by changing them, you can completely eliminate the need for PPIs and their damaging side effects.
The most common cause of GERD is improper diet—after all, the Standard American Diet (it’s called SAD for a reason) is a digestive disaster waiting to happen. Here’s some guidelines for healing digestive issues naturally.
Ditch the unhealthy foods. Cut out sugary and processed foods, minimize simple carbohydrates, and avoid acidic beverages like coffee.
Replace with nourishing foods and beverages. Eat lots of fresh, organic foods. Always stay hydrated (with slightly alkaline water if possible).
Here’s the best part: these same practices will all simultaneously help you support your brain and ward off dementia. Ditching harmful pharmaceuticals (under a doctor’s supervision) and making lifestyle choices that truly support and heal the body is always a win-win.