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Health Capsules: June 26

Washington University researchers warn of serious PPI risks

More than 15 million Americans take proton pump inhibitors, also known as PPIs, with a doctor’s prescription. Millions more than that are likely purchasing these drugs over the counter under brand names like Nexium, Prevacid, Prilosec and others, along with generic formulations. These medications, which help to control symptoms of acid reflux, frequent heartburn or ulcers by blocking stomach acid production, often become a daily habit.

However, new research from Washington University in St. Louis shows that these common drugs may raise one’s long-term risk for a number of deadly conditions, including heart disease and stomach cancer. The risk of death from PPI use may be as much as 17% higher than for those who take a different class of acid-reducing medicines called H2 blockers, the study showed.

Led by Dr. Ziyad Al-Aly, an assistant professor of medicine at the university, the study looked at data from more than 157,000 people – mostly white males over the age of 65 – who took PPI medicines for over a decade. They were compared to a group of just under 57,000 others who had taken H2 acid-blocking medications, which suppress stomach acid differently and are sold under brand names such as Pepcid, Tagamet and Zantac.

The researchers found significantly higher death rates from cardiovascular disease, stomach cancer and chronic kidney disease among those taking PPIs. The PPI users’ risk of death increased with longer use, even when the study participants had taken low doses of the drugs.

Al-Aly said that most alarming to him was the study’s finding that over half of those taking PPIs had no medical need for their long-term use. “Taking PPIs over many months or years is not safe, and now we have a clearer picture of the health conditions associated with long-term PPI use,” he said.

“PPIs sold over the counter should have a clearer warning about [the] potential for significant health risks, as well as a clearer warning about the need to limit the length of use, generally not to exceed 14 days. People who feel the need to take over-the-counter PPIs longer than this need to see their doctors,” he added. The study appeared in The BMJ.

Teasing kids about weight may make them gain more

Kids at risk of obesity who are teased about their weight may gain even more because of it, according to new research.

Overweight youth who are teased or bullied because of their weight may gain more as a result, according to recent research from the National Institutes of Health.

The study included 110 youngsters who were about 12 years old when it began, and were either overweight [defined as a body mass index above the 85th percentile] or had two parents who were overweight or obese. At their initial study visit, they completed a questionnaire concerning whether and how much they had been teased about their weight. They were then followed annually for up to 15 years.

The researchers found that kids who experienced high levels of teasing had a BMI increase of 33% more each year – and a 91% greater average increase in fat mass – than those who did not. The findings, they said, appear to contradict the assumption that teasing might motivate young people to try to lose weight.

Lead author Natasha Schvey, Ph.D., noted that the study was observational and could not prove cause and effect. “But we can say weight-based teasing was significantly linked with weight gain over time,” she said.

Schvey and her colleagues theorized in a report which appeared in Pediatric Obesity that weight-related stigma and anxiety brought about by teasing may have made the study participants more likely to engage in unhealthy behaviors, such as binge eating and avoiding exercise, well into adulthood.

On the calendar

A free class for caregivers, Positive Thinking, is offered on Thursday, July 18 from 3:30-5:30 p.m. at Barnes-Jewish St. Peters Hospital, 10 Hospital Drive in St. Peters, in Room 108A of Medical Office Building 1. This class is best for friends and family members caring for someone who is developmentally disabled; however, topics are relevant for anyone caring for someone with a chronic condition. For more information or to register, call (636) 928-9355.

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BJC St. Louis Children’s Hospital sponsors a Babysitting 101 class on Saturday, July 20 from 1-5 p.m. at Progress West Hospital, 2 Progress Point Parkway in O’Fallon, in Conference Room B. Topics covered include the business of babysitting, child development, safety and first aid, and fun and games. The course fee is $30 per child. Advance registration is required by calling (636) 344-5437.

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BJC St. Louis Children’s Hospital sponsors a Staying Home Alone course on Saturday, July 20 from 10-11:30 a.m. at the McClay Branch Library, 2760 McClay Road in St. Charles. This class is designed for parents and children to attend together; it will help to determine a child’s physical, mental, social and emotional readiness to stay home alone. The fee is $25 per family. To register, call (314) 454-5437.

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BJC of St. Charles County sponsors a special “Evening with the Experts” presentation, Breast Health: Current Events and News, on Wednesday, July 24 from 6:45-8 p.m. at Siteman Cancer Center, 150 Entrance Way in St. Peters. Join BJC experts to discuss the latest recommendations, treatments and therapies as well as screening. The free session includes a yoga wellness bonus. Advance registration is preferred and is available online at bjcstcharlescounty.org/Events.

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BJC hosts an American Red Cross Community Blood Drive on Friday, July 26 from noon-4 p.m. at Barnes-Jewish St. Peters Hospital, 10 Hospital Drive in St. Peters, in Suite 117 of Medical Office Building 1; and at Progress West Hospital, 2 Progress Point Parkway in O’Fallon, in Conference Room B. Use sponsor codes BJSTPETERS or PROGRESS WEST when signing up online at redcrossblood.org or by phone at (800) 733-2767.

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