Aging and GERD

GERD Awareness Week - CompassionCare Hospice of Las Vegas, Nevada

GERD is the most common gastrointestinal disorders seen.

Aging increases your risk and severity of GERD. Millions of people are affected by this disease. The odds of developing this disorder increases with age. Here are some things your senior can do to alleviate GERD:

• Avoid foods that can trigger an attack such as chocolate, peppermint, coffee, carbonated beverages, fried food, and alcohol.
• Avoid foods that irritate sensitive gastrointestinal tissue such as acidic foods, citrus, tomatoes, spicy food, and pepper.
• Stop smoking. Tobacco stimulates the production of stomach acid, and weakens the muscle connecting the stomach to esophagus.
• Eat more frequent, smaller meals to avoid being overfull, and don’t eat within 2 hours of bedtime.
• Elevate your head while sleeping with extra pillows or a bed wedge. Also, try sleeping on your right side.
• Keep weight in control, as excess belly fat can push up on the stomach. Try not to wear tight clothing, especially around the abdomen.
• Review your medication list with a pharmacist to determine if a medication is increasing symptoms.

Lifestyle changes can make the symptoms better, but sometimes medication is needed. If symptoms persist, talk with your doctor to develop a treatment plan. An elderly patient may not connect their symptoms with heartburn or GERD because their symptoms may be different from what is considered the normal symptoms of the disease. Usually when we think of the symptoms of GERD we think heartburn foremost. In the elderly, symptoms often show up in the mouth, throat, or lungs. A small percentage of people with chronic GERD may require surgery because the presence of stomach acid in the esophagus can lead to serious complications. It is rarely a life-threatening condition, and most people can learn to control symptoms. Complications of GERD are common in the elderly.