Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
Many people, including some 79% of those with gastroesophageal reflux disease suffer heartburn that awakens them during the night. While this is by far the most common symptom of GERD, there are about 10-15% of people with gastroesophageal disease who do NOT have heartburn! Instead, they experience asthma, a chronic cough, chest pain, or laryngitis. These symptoms result when stomach acid refluxes into organs connected to the esophagus, such as the larynx, trachea and lungs.Research reported in the journal Chest (Volume 127, page 1658 May 2005) shows that people who are overweight, drink a lot of carbonated beverages, snore, experience daytime sleepiness or insomnia, have a high blood pressure or asthma, or use anti-anxiety medications such as diazepam (Valium) are most likely to experience the problem.The subjects were part of the Sleep Heart Health Study, a national trial that enrolled 15,314 people to investigate the link between breathing problems during sleep and cardiovascular disease. Among the questions was “how often in the past year, on average, have you been awakened during the night with heartburn or indigestion?” The responses indicated that 1/4 or 3,806 people, in this group reported the symptom at least twice a month. People with nighttime heartburn are at greater risk for more serious esophageal problems such as erosive esophagitis, Barrett’s esophagus, and esophageal cancer.With both obesity and GERD on the rise , medical researchers have found there to be a link between the two. An article in The American Journal of Gastroenterology examined the results of 20 studies involving more than 18,000 people with GERD. Overall, people who were overweight were 50% more likely to have GERD than normal weight people; obese individuals were more than twice as likely.If you experience nighttime heartburn on a regular basis, or have bouts of asthma, a nagging cough or episodes of chest pain, talk with your doctor. In addition, try to control the risk factors identified in this study – for example, keep your weight and blood pressure under control and cut down on your soda intake.
Johns Hopkins Medicine and Johns Hopkins Health Alerts

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