A risk factor is something that increases your likelihood of getting a disease or condition.

It is possible to develop GERD with or without the risk factors listed below. However, the more risk factors you have, the greater your likelihood of developing GERD. If you have a number of risk factors, ask your healthcare provider what you can do to reduce your risk.

GERD or heartburn can occur in men, women, and children of all ages, including infants.

Risk factors include:

Specific Lifestyle Factors

The following habits may increase the risk of GERD:

  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Exercising or strenuous activity immediately after eating
  • Lying down, bending over, or straining after eating
Foods and Beverages

The following foods and beverages may increase the risk of developing GERD:

  • Alcohol use, especially in excess
  • Caffeine drinks such as coffee or carbonated soft drinks
  • Citrus fruits
  • Chocolate
  • Fried foods
  • Foods made with tomatoes, such as pizza, chili, or spaghetti sauce
  • Spicy foods
Medical Conditions

The following medical conditions may increase the risk of developing GERD:


  • Hiatal hernia
  • Pregnancy
  • Diabetes
  • Prior surgery, vagotomy
  • Scleroderma
  • Certain nervous system disorders
  • In-dwelling nasogastric tube
Medications and Supplements

The use of certain medications and supplements may increase the risk of GERD. These medications include:

  • Anticholinergics
  • Calcium channel blockers
  • Theophylline, bronchial inhalers, and other asthma medications
  • Nitrates
  • Sildenafil (Viagra)
  • Bisphosphonates