Heartburn is a misnomer and actually has nothing to do with the heart. The name was given by the location of where the pain or discomfort usually occurs which is underneath the sternum or the breastbone. The acidic stomach content can reflux backwards into the esophagus damaging the lining causing the pain and discomfort. Most people who suffer from heartburn feel a burning sensation in the middle of their chest and may also feel it in their throat. The pain may worsen when you bend down. Other symptoms include having a hot, acidic, bitter or salty taste in your mouth or having trouble swallowing.

 

So how long does heartburn last one might ask? It can vary from a few minutes to hours. Most people have symptoms of heartburn intermittently for days, weeks to years depending on their lifestyle habits. Unfortunately, if acid reflux or heartburn is not addressed or treated and persists for a long period of time, it can lead to long-term complications. Common complications include a long-term cough, laryngitis, stomach ulcer, esophagitis, or even precancerous condition known as Barrett’s esophagus.

 

A good way to start preventing heartburn is to keep a healthy weight, avoiding foods or drinks that make symptoms worse, wearing loose fitting clothes around the waist, eating smaller portion meals, avoiding smoking, and getting enough sleep/minimizing stress.

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Dr. Minhas, M.D.

Board-certified internal medicine (ABIM)