Despite its name, heartburn does not affect the heart. Heartburn occurs when there is an abnormal entry of stomach acids back into the esophagus. This causes a burning feeling in the chest that spreads towards the neck. You may also experience a sour taste in your mouth, sore throat, raspy voice or unexplained cough. The symptoms are usually worse after a big meal or after you lie down for bed. Symptoms can last from a few minutes up to several hours.

Prevention

  • Avoid foods known to cause or aggravate heartburn including fried or fatty foods, peppermint, spearmint, citrus fruits, spicy foods, tomato products, and carbonated beverages.
  • Avoid food or drinks that contain caffeine, such as chocolate, sodas, coffee, and tea.
  • Decrease or discontinue use of alcohol.
  • Stop all use of tobacco products.
  • Avoid overeating and late-night meals.
  • Avoid lying down for at least two to three after a meal.
  • Avoid medications that can make heartburn worse, such as aspirin, Advil®, and Aleve®.
  • Avoid wearing tight clothes or belts.

Treatment

Home care   Home Care

  • Raise the head of your bed 6-8 inches by placing blocks underneath the legs or a wedge under the mattress.
  • Try nonprescription antacids like Maalox®, Mylanta®, or Tums®. Acid suppressors like omeprazole (Prilosec®) are also available.

 

Professional care   Professional Care

Seek medical attention if:

  • Heartburn continues after self-care.
  • Your stools are bloody or black
  • You have difficulty and/or pain that spreads into your neck or shoulder or you experience shortness of breath
  • You have pain that becomes severe, like a heavy weight on your chest