The American Gastroenterological Association reports that more than 60 million Americans experience symptoms of heartburn (caused by acid reflux) at least once each month, while a long-term Norwegian study recently revealed that that the number of people who experience acid reflux at least once a week has increased by 50% in the last 10 years.
Why is this important? After all it’s just a little heartburn, right? Maybe not!
If you’re suffering from long-term, chronic acid reflux it’s no small matter. If not properly managed, over a long period of time acid reflux can progress into gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which can be potentially serious if left untreated. Risk factors include peptic stricture, Barrett’s esophagus, asthma, chronic hoarseness, esophageal ulcers and dental problems.
Peptic stricture is a narrowing of the esophagus due to acid injury and scarring. This commonly causes food to stick in the lower esophagus, making it difficult to swallow.
Barrett’s esophagus, one of the most serious complications that can result from chronic acid reflux, occurs when the lining of the esophagus changes to resemble intestinal lining. This can increase the risk of esophageal cancer.
If you’re reading this and wondering how you can lessen the odds of becoming an “acid reflux statistic,” my first advice would be for you to watch your weight and avoid tobacco. Maintaining a healthy weight will help prevent symptoms of acid reflux as well as many other diseases that are commonly linked with obesity, such as diabetes. Tobacco may stimulate stomach acid production and relax the muscle between the stomach and esophagus, permitting the abnormal flow of stomach acid to occur.
If you are one of the growing number of people experiencing frequent heartburn, I encourage you to see your physician. Although there is no cure for acid reflux disease, with effective treatment, proper use of medication and lifestyle and diet changes, most people can easily manage this disease and avoid potential complications.