Guess what !
Would you be surprised to know that the silent killer of the liver is a nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)? It’s true! NAFLD is the most common chronic liver condition in the Western world, and it affects approximately 30% of adults worldwide. I’d go so far as to say that it could become a future epidemic.
An estimated 30% of Americans are affected by this silent epidemic that is shifting the morbidity and mortality landscape of our nation.
NAFLD is the most common liver disease in the world today. It can lead to cirrhosis and liver cancer, which are often fatal if left untreated. Yet it is a silent epidemic because it does not cause any pain; thus, patients often don’t know that they have it until further complications begin to appear. Up to 30% of Americans are affected by this silent epidemic that is shifting the morbidity and mortality landscape of our nation. This makes it an epidemic, but not one that you have heard about or can see on TV like other diseases such as Ebola or AIDS.
It’s an epidemic because it affects roughly 3 out of every 10 Americans.
NAFLD is the most common liver disease in the world today. NAFLD is so common that it has become an epidemic because it has increased in prevalence by more than 3-fold over the past 50 years to become one of the leading causes of chronic liver disease.
NAFLD doesn’t have a good treatment option at the moment.
Unfortunately, there are no specific treatments for NAFLD. However, the best treatment is to lower your risk factors by eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and losing weight if you are overweight or obese. This can help to prevent the progression of the disease so that it doesn’t cause serious health problems later on.
If you have NASH, your doctor may recommend medications or lifestyle changes such as a low-salt diet and exercise. Sometimes people with NASH need a liver transplant because there’s too much damage from the disease and their livers can’t function properly anymore.
NAFLD is a silent epidemic that affects millions of Americans without them even knowing about it—and we don’t yet have any cure!
NASH is where we see the most dangerous effects of NAFLD.
NASH is where we see the most dangerous effects of NAFLD. It stands for nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, which can lead to liver failure, liver cancer, and other serious conditions. The NASH diagnosis applies when there are features of inflammation and fibrosis in addition to fat within the liver cells—these features are present in up to 80% of NAFLD patients. The presence of these complications leads to a higher risk of death related to all causes as well as cardiovascular disease—they appear even more often than expected in someone with normal cholesterol levels or diabetes only (but no other risk factors).
A liver transplant can be a treatment option for someone with NASH, but it comes with complications.
NASH can become so severe that the only treatment is a transplant. When the scarring becomes permanent, it creates bands all over the liver which will impair the liver’s function and its ability to regenerate. A liver transplant is only an option for people who have developed severe cirrhosis due to NAFLD or other causes (such as chronic hepatitis C). Liver transplants do not cure NAFLD or NASH, so if you have undergone a successful procedure and still have signs of these conditions in your blood tests or imaging tests after surgery—even if they are mild—you will need additional medical attention and possibly another procedure (liver resection) to remove scar tissue from the organ.
The best way to fight NAFLD and NASH is to lower your risk factors
The best way to fight NAFLD and NASH is to lower your risk factors, like being overweight or obese, consuming too much sugar, and alcohol, and having a diet rich in processed foods.
To help prevent these diseases:
- Eat a healthy diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. The Mediterranean diet is one example of this type of eating plan.
- Getting regular exercise, has been shown to reduce the risk of developing NAFLD by up to 60 percent compared with those who are inactive.
- Sleeping well at night. Getting enough sleep each night may help reduce the risk of developing NAFLD by up to 80 percent compared with those who sleep less than six hours a night.
- Managing stress effectively through relaxation techniques like meditation or yoga also may help reduce NAFLD risk because stress can trigger inflammation in the body that worsens liver function.
- Stop consuming alcohol or at least limit alcohol consumption. One drink per day for women; two drinks per day for men (especially if you are older than 40). If you do drink alcohol, try to limit yourself to no more than seven drinks in one week because heavy drinking can lead to inflammation in the liver which causes damage over time that may lead up to cirrhosis and even death due to complications from cirrhosis such as bleeding from esophageal varices (these are swollen veins) or hepatic encephalopathy (brain damage caused by excess toxins accumulating in the body). It is usually suggested to just stop consuming alcohol altogether.
So the next time you think about grabbing that late night snack or a night of drinking with the crew, ask yourself if it’s worth it and just modify what you do.
All the best to you and your family. Keep moving forward.