HOUSTON — According to a study published in Circulation Research, cells that are chronically exposed in vitro, in a test tube, to proton pump inhibitors may lead to a build up of cellular garbage in cellular linings, which leads to accelerated blood vessel aging.

About 15 million Americans use PPIs, making it the most commonly prescribed drug type in the United States. This means that roughly one in nearly 14 Americans use an over-the-counter proton pump inhibitors, such as Prilosec or Nexium, to treat heartburn or acid reflux.

PPIs are approved by the FDA and are considered to be the most effective treatment for heartburn, however, they are only intended to be used for up to four weeks at a time, up to three times a year. According to the study, research suggests up to 70 percent of PPI use may be inappropriate.

Dr. John Cooke, Chair of Cardiovascular Sciences at the Huston Methodist Research Institute, found that PPIs impaired the function of tiny organelles inside of vascular cells called lysosomes.

The lysosomes act as tiny “garbage disposals” or stomachs and when they become impaired, it causes garbage to build up on the cells making them age faster and not properly function.

“Our finding that the lining of blood vessels is impaired by proton pump inhibitors is a unifying mechanism for the reports that PPI users are at increased risk for heart attack, stroke and renal failure,” Cooke told CBS News.

Dr.Cooke said he hopes to conduct additional research to help prevent people from being harmed by the adverse side effects of these drugs when used improperly.

“I’m not saying these drugs should be pulled off the market — they’re safe and effective as approved by the FDA,” Cooke told Fox News. “But I do think it’s time to reconsider their use over the counter and re-educate ourselves.”

It is also suggested that lifestyle adjustments, such as exercise, cutting down on alcohol and caffeine as well as avoiding heavy meals before bedtime, may help ease heartburn.

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