Why A Liver Health Check Is So Important
Sponsored by: Synexus
Could you have Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) and not know it? Believe it or not, many people do…
Fatty Liver Disease is when a person has too much fat stored in their liver. Certain health conditions (like type 2 diabetes and obesity) make some people more prone than others. But since there are rarely symptoms early on, most don’t even know they have it. Yet, worldwide, 25% to 30% of adults are believed to have a fatty liver, with about 1 in 5 of those having a more severe form of the disease called NASH (Non-Alcoholic Steatohepatitis).
NAFLD vs. NASH
What’s the difference? With NAFLD, the liver has little or no inflammation (swelling) or actual liver damage. With NASH, there is evidence of liver inflammation and scarring (fibrosis), which is a sign of liver damage.
Also, with NASH, over time these liver changes can result in what’s known as “cirrhosis.” While a healthy liver is able to repair itself, with cirrhosis the liver is so damaged it can no longer fully function to do things like help fight infection or rid the body of toxins. And these days, being able to fight infection is doubly important! Cirrhosis can then progress to liver cancer and may eventually require a liver transplant. Finally, NASH can also increase your risk of heart disease.
Experts aren’t sure exactly why some people with fatty liver disease have NAFLD, yet others have NASH.
(Of course, still other types of fatty liver disease are caused by drinking too much alcohol and—just like NASH—is a major cause of cirrhosis.)
A “silent,” life-threatening disease
NASH is a chronic (long-term), but “silent” disease since people can live with it for years without having any symptoms. That’s why it’s important to find out if you have a fatty liver so your doctor can help you take the steps needed to improve your health.
No treatments for fatty liver yet exist, but your physician may suggest:
- Lifestyle changes like diet and exercise
- Medicines (to lower cholesterol, for example) and/or
- Enrolling in a research study/clinical trial
Could you be at risk?
Fatty liver disease can affect people of any age—including children—though admittedly it’s more likely to develop as we get older.
For people who are obese and for those who have health conditions related to obesity (such as type 2 diabetes), the risk is even higher with upwards of 1 in 3 developing fatty liver disease. In fact, studies have found fatty liver could be as high as 80% or 90% in these populations!
So, talk to your doctor about getting a free liver health check (Fibroscan). It just may save your life…