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    Despite its name, heartburn has nothing to do with the heart. It happens when your esophagus, the tube that goes from your throat to your stomach, gets irritated by acid that comes up from your stomach. That happens if a valve at the top of the stomach doesn’t work properly.

    Most people have felt heartburn at one time or another. It's uncomfortable, but it’s usually not a serious health problem.

    If it happens often, you may have a more serious condition called GERD. That stands for gastroesophageal reflux disease. Left untreated, GERD can sometimes lead to other problems, including:

    Symptoms

    You may have:

    • A burning feeling in your chest just behind the breastbone that happens after you eat and lasts a few minutes to several hours
    • Chest pain, especially after bending over, lying down, or eating
    • Burning in the throat -- or a hot, sour, acidic, or salty-tasting fluid at the back of the throat
    • Trouble swallowing
    • Feeling of food "sticking" in the middle of your chest or throat

    Causes

    You are more likely to get heartburn if you:

    • Eat large portions
    • Eat certain foods, including onions, chocolate, peppermint, high-fat or spicy foods, citrus fruits, garlic, and tomatoes or tomato-based products
    • Drink citrus juices, alcohol, caffeinated drinks, and carbonated beverages
    • Eat before bedtime
    • Are overweight
    • Smoke
    • Wear tight-fitting clothing or belts
    • Lie down or bend over after eating
    • Are stressed out
    • Are pregnant
    • Have a hiatal hernia, meaning that part of your stomach bulges up into your chest
    • Take certain medications, especially some antibiotics and NSAIDS, including aspirin
    • Are constipated