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Disease Prevention

Americans Need Education To Extinguish the Flames of Heartburn

Did you realize heartburn could cause serious complications if left untreated? If not, you're not alone. Sixty-five percent of Americans do not realize heartburn is linked to asthma, chronic cough and even cancer in rare cases, according to results of a recent survey conducted by the National Heartburn Alliance (NHBA).

Heartburn strikes more than 60 million Americans at least once a month and of those sufferers, 43 percent do not even consider heartburn to be a medical condition.

"The results of this survey should serve as a wake-up call to patients and health professionals by demonstrating that many heartburn sufferers do not understand the symptoms, treatments and possible complications of one of our country's most common medical complaints," according to Dr. David Peura, associate chief and professor of medicine, division of gastroenterology and hepatology at the University of Virginia and board member of the NHBA.

Key findings from the survey include:

Personal Impact

One-third of heartburn sufferers say heartburn prevents them from doing things they like to do, and 27 percent say this occurs once a week or more.

Nearly one in four of frequent heartburn sufferers have not contributed as much as they could at work because of heartburn.

More than half of heartburn sufferers have stayed home from work on account of their heartburn once a month or more.

Spotting the Symptoms

Twenty-nine percent of those who say they don't suffer from heartburn reported experiencing its most common symptoms — burning in chest, a feeling that food is coming back into the mouth or a bitter taste in the back of the throat.

More than 10 percent mistakenly identified symptoms such as increased heart rate, pain down the left arm and a lightheadedness as heartburn symptoms.

Education Needed

More than one-third claim to understand advantages of antacids compared to a mere eight percent who understand the benefits of proton pump inhibitors.

Sixty-five percent of sufferers report taking antacids to "prevent" heartburn — despite the fact that antacids can only relieve symptoms once they have occurred.

One-fifth of sufferers report they take some kind of medication but "are not sure which kind."

Seventeen percent of sufferers use home remedies. However, many of the home remedies listed — sodas, mint , spicy foods and tomato juice — can actually exacerbate heartburn symptoms.

For more information with the National Heartburn Alliance Web site at

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