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1 in 4 Suffer Heartburn Every Month

Heartburn More Common in Western Countries

WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

June 22, 2006 -- One in four people in Western countries suffer from heartburnheartburn at least once a month, according to a new study that shows the problem is much more common in the West than in other parts of the world.

Researchers found that 25% of people in Western countries report symptoms of heartburn at least once a month; 12% suffer from the burning and pain in the chest at least once a week.

In contrast, only 11% of those living in Eastern Asian countries report having heartburn at least once a month and 4% weekly.

Feeling heartburn can occur when the acidic contents of the stomach back up into the esophagus, resulting in a feeling of burning or pain in the chest or upper abdomen. It is also a symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERDGERD).

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East vs. West

In the study, published in this week's issue of The Lancet, Nicholas Talley, MD, and colleagues at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. looked at the prevalence of heartburn reported in 31 studies on the topic.

Their analysis showed that more people in Western countries report frequent heartburn compared to those in other areas, In fact, 5% in the West report symptoms every day, compared to 2% in Eastern Asian countries.

Although the cause of heartburn is unknown, genetic factors are thought to play a role. ObesityObesity and lifestyle factors such as eating certain foods, drinking alcohol, and smoking increase the risk of developing heartburn.

Researchers put the cost of managing and treating heartburn and GERD in the U.S. at more than $9 billion.

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