Heartburn, also called acid reflux, isn’t about your heart at all; it’s about your digestive system. When stomach contents splash upward into the esophagus—the food tube that parallels your windpipe—you may feel a hot, burning sensation in your chest and throat. Nearly half of American adults occasionally experience heartburn after meals or when lying down.
More than two or three heartburn episodes a week could indicate gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD. GERD isn’t life threatening, but you shouldn’t ignore it. “In some people, the acid can damage the esophagus lining, causing scars and an increased risk of esophageal cancer,” says gastroenterologist Neil Stollman, M.D., of Sutter Health Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Oakland.