Sixty percent of adults experience acid reflux—also known as gastroesophageal reflux and, more commonly, heartburn—at least once each year while 20 to 30 percent experience acid reflux symptoms on a weekly basis. The most commonly prescribed drugs for this condition are proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), with FDA estimating that about 1 in 14 American’s have used them.

I have written a lot about proton pump inhibitors because of their numerous detrimental effects and their overprescription and widespread over-the-counter availability. A recent study published in the journal Circulation offers yet another reason against taking these potentially dangerous drugs. The scientists found that PPIs caused constriction of blood vessels in human tissue and animal models, suggesting they might impair heart function in humans.

“We found that PPIs interfere with the ability of blood vessels to relax,” stated Yohannes Ghebramariam, PhD, lead author. “PPIs have this adverse effect by reducing the ability of human blood vessels to generate nitric oxide. Nitric oxide generated by the lining of the vessel is known to relax, and to protect, arteries and veins.”

More studies will be needed to determine the actual heart disease risk of PPIs in humans, but in the meantime, lead researcher John Cooke, MD, PhD, suggested, “Patients taking PPIs may wish to speak to their doctors about switching to another drug to protect their stomachs if they are at risk for a heart attack.”

So many people take PPIs on a regular basis, particularly because they are available over the counter, yet if you read the label, it clearly states, “Use as directed for 14 days to treat frequent heartburn. Do not take for more than 14 days or more often than every 4 months unless directed by a doctor.” If you are taking this medication long term, be sure to talk to your doctor about the potential risks. If your doctor is not receptive to your concerns, it may be time to find another doctor.