Liver disease is generally associated with alcohol-related liver deterioration. However, alcohol isn’t the only agent that causes liver damage.
Non Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) is one of the top ten leading causes of death in India. This disease occurs when there are large deposits of fat on the liver. While 5-10% fat is considered to be within the normal range, anything more qualifies your liver as fatty. The liver gets rid of the toxins in your body and is the second-largest organ you have after your skin. Therefore, any signs of damage to your liver have serious implications.
What Causes Fatty Liver Disease?
Nonalcoholic liver cirrhosis or NAFLD is caused due to your lifestyle and eating habits. Of course, your genetics also play a part in whether or not you are likely to develop this disease. However, unhealthy lifestyle habits are the largest contributors to the development of this disease. Here are some factors to watch out for:
- A sedentary lifestyle: Most working professionals have a sedentary lifestyle. You sit for long hours in front of your computer and the only exercise you get is the occasional walk to the loo. When you do not exercise, your body burns less fat as it does not need excess energy. As a result, fat accumulates in the body. A sedentary lifestyle can also lead to fat deposits in your liver and cause NAFLD.
- An imbalanced diet: Keeping tabs on your diet can be a challenge, especially if you are prone to eating out. Many working professionals rely on their office canteens or nearby restaurants for a few meals per week, apart from eating what is cooked at home. As a result, it becomes hard to account for the amount of fat you are ingesting. Ensuring that your food is cooked with healthy ingredients and includes plenty of fruits and vegetables is the best way to ensure great health.
- Medication: You cannot always control the medication prescribed to you, however, you can be cognizant of the fact that certain medications make you more prone to certain diseases. Corticosteroids leave you more susceptible to developing liver conditions like NAFLD, which is why if you are taking such medication, you must be extra careful about your diet and exercise.
- Diseases: Certain diseases leave the door open for others to develop. If you have type 2 diabetes, or are diagnosed as prediabetic, you need to watch out for fatty infiltration of the liver. Additionally, if you have high blood pressure or have just gone through rapid weight loss, you are more prone to developing this disease.
NAFLD is a very serious condition as it can lead to liver cancer. Therefore, it is essential to watch out for this disease. Getting regular blood tests such as ones for liver function and lipid profile are a great way to keep an eye out for any liver conditions.
Fatty Liver Disease Symptoms and Treatment
Something that makes NAFLD deadly is the fact that it shows no visible signs and symptoms. In fact, the only two things that it may show are an enlarged liver and fatigue. As a result, many patients are diagnosed with NAFLD after having had the problem for a while.
On the other hand, non alcoholic steatohepatitis, which is a dangerous form of NAFLD, does have a few symptoms that you can watch out for. These symptoms also appear if you have liver cirrhosis or advanced scarring:
- Swelling in your abdomen
- Enlarged breasts in men
- Enlarged blood vessels right under the skin
- Enlarged spleen
- Red palms
- Yellow skin and eyes (jaundice)
There are different treatment plans for NAFLD and your doctor will recommend one based on your individual medical history. Some of these treatment plans are:
- Weight loss through diet and exercise
- Vaccinations for Hepatitis A and B to prevent further damage
- Liver transplant in the case of cirrhosis
Preventing Liver Disease
Getting tested regularly is a great way to stay on top of any issues that many arise. However, it is also important to do all you can to prevent liver conditions from occurring in the first place. Here are some things that you can do yourself in order to prevent fatty liver problems:
- Avoid alcohol, tobacco, and any drugs. Even though we are discussing Non-alcoholic liver diseases, avoiding alcohol is one of the best things you can do for your liver
- Exercise regularly to burn up additional fat in your body
- Get your Hepatitis B immunizations on a regular basis after consulting your doctor
- Ensure that any blood transfusions you undergo is safe and only carried out at a reputed clinic. This way, you can avoid contracting Hepatitis A and B, as well as other serious blood-borne illnesses
- Prioritize a low fat diet (consult with your doctor first, as individuals require different doses of nutrients based on their health and BMI).