Liver disease: Doctor discusses causes and symptoms
Liver conditions don’t always draw attention to themselves in the early stages, leaving many patients unaware of having them.
Worryingly, more than one in three adults are living with a deadly liver disorder, according to new research.
The “silent killer” often goes undiagnosed due to the lack of symptoms.
What’s worse, the condition doesn’t stop at your liver as it can lead to cardiovascular disease, cancer or type 2 diabetes.
Known as metabolic associated fatty liver disease, or MAFLD for short, it can be triggered by obesity, high blood sugar, and high levels of fats in the blood, which are often underlined by poor lifestyle choices.
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Previously known as just non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, MAFLD is fast becoming the most common indication for liver transplantation.
While the early stages of MAFLD don’t usually cause any harm, the condition can progress and result in inflammation, scarring and even liver failure.
First author Dr Magda Shaheen said: “The percent of people with MAFLD increased from 16 percent in 1988 to 37 percent in 2018 – a 131 percent increase.”
Furthermore, a larger percentage of younger people in their 30 and 40s are developing the condition.
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Co-author Dr Theodore Friedman said: “Overall, the increase in MAFLD is concerning, as this condition can lead to liver failure and cardiovascular diseases and has an important health disparity.”
The team at Charles R. Drew University, Los Angeles, California, analysed three decades of data from 32,726 people who took part in a national health survey in the US.
Dr Friedman continued: “We found that overall, both MAFLD and obesity increased with time, with the increase in MAFLD greater than the increase in obesity.”
According to the researchers, this suggests that other risk factors such as diabetes and hypertension could be also contributing to this rise in cases.
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Poor dietary choices can lay the harmful groundwork for this condition, making healthy lifestyle changes not only prevention but also the cornerstone of treatment.
When it comes to diet, you need to cut down on processed fatty foods and start eating more fibre-rich vegetables and whole grains.
While alcohol isn’t the main trigger for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, drinking may make it worse so the NHS recommends cutting down or quitting drinking altogether.
Furthermore, maintaining a healthy body weight and exercising regularly could also stave off the liver condition.
The study was presented at a meeting of the Endocrine Society in Chicago.
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