Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a condition where stomach acid flows back from the stomach into the esophagus, causing problems like heartburn. It is a surprisingly common condition, affecting approximately 25 to 35 percent of people in the United States.
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But what exactly causes the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) to relax and allow this backflow of stomach acid? Well, there are a variety of risk factors that can lead it to weaken or become damaged, including these seven.
Carrying an excess amount of body fat, otherwise known as obesity, is a primary risk factor for developing GERD. ABC News explains that this is because “Obesity puts strain on the lower esophageal sphincter, this valve between the stomach and the esophagus, and thereby predisposes to more severe reflux.”
RefluxMD.com adds that a person’s likelihood of developing GERD is “is directly related to BMI”—body mass index. While a healthy BMI is around 20-25, in those with a BMI over 30 almost 70 percent of people tested positive for GERD.