BACKGROUND: Although patients with gastroesophageal reflux are often instructed to change their lifestyle, population-based data on the risk factors for reflux in the United States are lacking. METHODS: We performed a cross-sectional study in an age- and gender-stratified random sample of the population of Olmsted County, Minnesota. Residents aged 25 to 74 years were mailed a valid self-report questionnaire that measured reflux symptoms and potential risk factors. Logistic regression was used to estimate the odds ratios (OR) with 95% confidence intervals (CI) for reflux symptoms (heartburn or acid regurgitation) associated with potential risk factors. RESULTS: Overall, 1,524 (72%) of 2,118 eligible subjects responded. A body mass index >30 kg/m2 (OR = 2.8; CI, 1.7 to 4.5), reporting an immediate family member with heartburn or disease of the esophagus or stomach (OR = 2.6; CI, 1.8 to 3.7), a past history of smoking (OR = 1.6; CI, 1.1 to 2.3), consuming more than seven drinks per week (OR = 1.9; CI, 1.1 to 3.3), and a higher psychosomatic symptom checklist score (OR per 5 units = 1.4; CI, 1.3 to 1.6) were independently associated with frequent (at least weekly) reflux symptoms. CONCLUSION: Obesity is a strong risk factor for gastroesophageal reflux, although the value of weight reduction remains to be proven. That family history was also a risk factor suggests that there may be a genetic component to the disorder.
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