Survival without the liver is impossible. Everything that you consume, in whichever form, passes through it. This simple organ performs a variety of complex functions to keep the human body healthy by filtering blood, fighting infections, aiding digestion and removing toxins. Therefore, it is important to keep the liver healthy.
The occasion of World Liver Day gives us at Healthwire the opportunity to shed light on ‘the most common disease that you’ve never heard of” – Fatty Liver Disease (FLD). With one in every four persons affected by it, Fatty Liver Disease has more sufferers than diabetes and arthritis combined. The trouble, however, is that many people who have it do not show any symptoms and discover the problem only when it is at an advanced stage. FLD is a precursor to Cirrhosis of the liver – the last stage of liver disease in which scar tissue irreversibly replaces the liver’s healthy cells, thus diminishing its ability to function. Cirrhosis usually starts out as Fatty Liver Disease, a build-up of fat in the organ.
The common myth is that liver disease is a result of alcoholism. However, few people realise that even non-drinkers develop fatty livers, known as Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD). This is fast becoming the most common cause of chronic liver disease in the World, and especially India, where the growing number of cases represent the nature of an epidemic. It is the hepatic (liver-related) manifestation of the Metabolic Syndrome. Now this is seen in more than 50% of people with morbid obesity and 25% people who are overweight. Thus, it is a direct result of a high body mass index (BMI), smoking, poor diet and physical inactivity, i.e., eating too much and moving too little, which lead to unhealthy lifestyle choices.
Progression of Liver Disease
The progression of liver disease in the case of NAFLD includes the build-up of fat in the liver, followed by inflammation of the liver, chronic liver disease and ultimately Cirrhosis, which is the end stage liver disease. One stage leads to the other, if left unattended. One may not have any symptoms till the final stage, so it is important to make regular visits to the doctor, and take care of one’s overall health.
Maintaining a healthy weight, eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly and improving one’s overall health are the only proven methods to prevent the progressive effects of the Metabolic Syndrome. It is also important to maintain personal hygiene, practise safe sex and consume alcohol in moderation. Prevention improves quality of life and survival in the long term. It is also cost-effective since having Cirrhosis or liver tumours may require one to undergo a liver transplantation. It is important to undergo regular health check-ups. Liver specific blood tests and ultrasound scans will also detect NAFLD in a person’s body.
If diagnosed with NAFLD, one must see the hepatologist to get proper advice on monitoring the progression of the disease and making the required lifestyle modifications based on the age of the person and the stage of the disease.