10 things you should know about heartburn

staying informed about heartburn – what causes it, how to treat it and when it may be more than just indigestion can be helpful when it comes to managing discomfort.

1. That uncomfortable burning sensation in your chest is the most common sign of acid reflux, but some people don’t experience acid reflux. Instead, they may have trouble swallowing or even cough up blood. Acid reflux happens when your sphincter muscle (which connects the esophagus to the stomach) relaxes at the wrong time and stays open too long (it normally only opens for a few seconds when you swallow), allowing stomach acid to flow back up into the esophagus.

2. For occasional heartburn, antacids like Maalox or Tums work well. But if you’re experiencing symptoms at least twice a week, or if it’s so bad that it’s interfering with your daily life, see your doctor. You might be one of the 10 percent of Americans who have chronic acid reflux, which is known as GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease). This condition needs to be treated by cutting off acid at the source, and drugs like Prilosec and Nexium can help by turning off the acid pumps in the stomach.

3. Ignoring it is dangerous. Left untreated, chronic acid reflux can increase your risk of developing an esophageal infection, ulcers, scarring of the esophagus, and even a precancerous condition called Barrett’s esophagus.

4. Women are just as likely as men to have it. Women are especially prone during pregnancy, and some experience more symptoms right before their period. Extra weight puts pressure on the sphincter muscle, triggering reflux.

5. Your doctor may advise you to avoid spicy foods and citrus because they relax the sphincter muscle in some people, but the truth is these foods don’t bother everyone. Keep a food diary to track symptoms; there’s no reason to cut out foods you enjoy if they’re not causing problems.

6. Elevating your bed may help reduce symptoms. Bump up the head of your bed with telephone books or blocks under the legs (instead of just using an extra pillow).

7. Don’t eat right before bedtime. Wait at least two hours after dinner before you lie down. That will give your stomach plenty of time to digest the food and empty out.

8. Lose some weight. It doesn’t have to be drastic, but dropping as little as 10 pounds can help.

9. Chew sugar-free gum.

10. Symptoms of a heart attack. Possible indicators that it may be a heart issue and you need to see a cardiologist: sweating, getting symptoms (nausea, sweating, chest pain) during exercise or exertion, chest pain that radiates to the neck or left shoulder, heartburn symptoms that don’t occur soon after eating, and a family history of heart attacks.

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read article on Yahoo! Health by Abigail L. Cuffey from Woman’s Day: 10 Things You Should Know About Heartburn

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