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Chronic heartburn may be a symptom of a larger problem.

It happens to most of us at one time or another; we eat a spicy meal, or perhaps drink a caffeinated beverage, and later we get a burning feeling in our chests. Most people know that as heartburn. But when the burning becomes chronic, it’s called gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD).

Thanksgiving meals can lead to overeating and heartburn, so this week is designated as GERD Awareness Week. Here’s a closer look at GERD.

Acid in the Esophagus

Normally stomach acid stays where it should—in the stomach. But if the muscle barrier between the stomach and esophagus doesn’t work properly, the acid can back up into the esophagus, causing heartburn. For many people, heartburn occurs only right after eating and less than once a week.

Is it GERD?

The burning sensation in your chest could be GERD if:

  • You have frequent heartburn.
  • Your heartburn gets worse over time.
  • Your heartburn happens off and on over several years.
  • The discomfort from your heartburn wakes you at night.
  • You can’t swallow easily or swallowing is painful.

Other Symptoms of GERD

While heartburn is the most common symptom, these could also indicate that you have GERD:

  • Burping
  • Chronic sore throat
  • A feeling that food is sticking in the throat
  • Gum inflammation
  • Hoarse voice in the morning
  • Laryngitis
  • Sour taste in the mouth
  • Dyspepsia, which consists of:

    • Pain or discomfort in the upper abdomen
    • Full feeling in the stomach
    • Nausea
  • Acid backing up into the throat
  • Chest pain (always see a doctor to rule out that the chest pain is not linked to a heart condition, rather than GERD)

Some Risk Factors

You might have a higher chance of developing GERD if you:

  • Are obese
  • Smoke tobacco
  • Drink alcohol
  • Are pregnant
  • Have asthma or other chronic respiratory diseases
  • Are a postmenopausal woman using hormone replacement therapy
  • Commonly lie down soon after a big meal

If you think you have GERD, see a doctor. If untreated, GERD can increase the risk of more severe ailments, including esophageal cancer. At North Hills Hospital, our doctors can detect and treat GERD before it becomes a major medical issue. Call 1-855-5NHILLS for a referral.

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As you probably know, heart disease is the number one killer in the United States and around the world. Heart attacks affect hundreds of thousands of Americans each year. Since February is American Heart Month, this is the perfect time to learn about cardiovascular health and understand how to spot a heart attack.

Most people think that a heart attack is marked by sudden and severe chest pain, but this is true only some of the time. There are a number of other symptoms to watch for, and many of them can come on gradually.

Be aware of these signs, for both yourself and those you love:

· Chest pain that feels like fullness, squeezing, or uncomfortable pressure

· Chest discomfort that goes away and comes 006682-Heart iStock_000003875987XSmallback

· Pain that spreads to the arms, shoulders, neck, back, or jaw

· Shortness of breath

· Increased or irregular heartbeat

· A feeling of indigestion

· Nausea

· Lightheadedness

· Extreme fatigue

· Pronounced sweatiness or a cold sweat

If you experience any of these symptoms, or a combination of them, don’t hesitate to call 9-1-1 and get help right away. Remember that even if chest pain dissipates, you may still have blockages in your arteries, so ignoring the issue is not the answer. It’s important to get checked out as soon as possible. To assess your condition, a physician can take a medical history, do a complete exam, order an electrocardiogram (EKG) to detect any heart damage, and run a blood test to check for abnormal levels of certain enzymes.

The Heart Center at North Hills Hospital offers state-of-the-art technology to help treat you during a heart attack and help you recover. You are in good hands with our top-notch medical team. In fact, we are the first hospital in Texas to achieve Cycle I, II, and II accreditation for chest pain care. Cycle III is the highest level of accreditation possible from the Society of Chest Pain Centers.

To learn more about cardiovascular health, consult our Heart Care Center or call our Cardiovascular Services department at 817-255-1894. Serving North Richland Hills and Northeast Tarrant County, we’re here to help keep your heart healthy.

Sources:
North Hills Hospital
American Heart Association

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