Today’s Headlines: Heartburn, Alzheimer’s Disease and CPR

Some drugs for treating heartburn may increase heart attack risk. Heartburn is an unpleasant symptom of stomach acid refluxing back up into the esophagus. Newer medications, called proton pump inhibitors or PPIs, block the stomach from making that acid. But new data released this week has found those drugs may carry a heart risk. “The researchers used clinical notes recorded at Stanford University and a web-based electronic health record system of mostly private practices. They used almost three million medical records to study the incidence of PPI use and of cardiovascular risk. They found that people with gastrointestinal reflux disease who took PPIs were 16 percent more likely to experience a heart attack than those who did not, and were twice as likely to die of a heart issue.” The team points out that this risk probably drops to normal after the drugs are stopped. The problem is, many people take these drugs for much longer than they’re supposed to. The team also thinks those who take these drugs may be sicker to begin with, making them more likely to have heart issues. (Reuters)

Staying mentally active doesn’t prevent Alzheimer’s, can delay it. The common wisdom about keeping your brain healthy with age is to keep it busy, but most of those recommendations came from studies looking at brains after death. Now, a team of researchers has looked at living brains to see how these mental gymnastics might help in the living. “The researchers collected data on the current and lifetime physical and mental activity of almost 200 people who didn’t have any memory or thinking problems. Their average age was 74. People in the study had PET and MRI scans so researchers could gauge signs of Alzheimer’s disease. In addition, participants took tests to evaluate their thinking and mental skills. They found that histories of mental activity were related to overall intelligence and generally to performance on tests of mental performance. But, these activities weren’t related to the presence of Alzheimer’s disease markers, such as beta-amyloid deposits in the brain. In fact, although people who kept their brains busy with stimulating mental activities had higher IQs and better mental performance, researchers found no relationship between mental or physical activity and signs of Alzheimer’s disease in the brain.” The researchers think their results show that keeping fit, both physically and mentally, can stave off symptoms of Alzheimer’s even when the brain might appear to be declining. (CBS)

CPR and cell phones can save lives when a person collapses. Getting certified in CPR might seem like a pain, but it’s the best method available to save a person’s life when their heart stops far from medical help. Researchers have confirmed that benefit and developed a new way to boost survival even more. “Cardiac arrest strikes about 420,000 people outside a hospital in the U.S. each year. Another 275,000 such cases occur in Europe. The study found that while 4 percent of the 14,869 people who didn’t get CPR survived for 30 days after their cardiac arrest, the rate rose to 10.5 percent for the 15,512 who did.  Not surprisingly, when the researchers looked at the time between a person’s collapse and the start of CPR, the 30-day survival rate was highest when CPR was begun within three minutes of collapse. The highest 30-day survival rate – 21.6 percent – was among people who collapsed away from home with CPR initiated within three minutes. The rate was just over 19 percent among patients under age 73 who were treated within three minutes; it was 11 percent for older patients who received prompt attention.” The team then set up a cell phone system that could be used to call volunteers trained in CPR who were nearby for help. The system dramatically increased the speed with which CPR was started after a person was found down, which should mean better survival. (Fox)