Everyday diet and lifestyle choices play a huge role in the well-being of your critical organs. Drinking excessive quantities of alcohol, for instance, can cause fat build-up in your liver. This can lead to cirrhosis, which is in essence scarring of the liver tissue. The more scars a liver bears, the lesser its ability to function well.
However, the liver can also suffer from this condition even without alcohol consumption. This condition is referred to as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). NAFLD can occur in every age group, although individuals between 40 – 50 years of age with a higher risk of obesity, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes, are more prone to it. Lifestyle changes can sometimes help keep NAFLD from getting worse, but for some, the condition can lead to life-threatening liver problems. Take a look at symptoms, causative factors, and possible preventive measures for the disease.
Symptoms of Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease
The disease does not often present any obvious signs and symptoms until it has progressed to an extent. When the symptoms do become apparent, they may include:
- Enlarged liver
- Pain and discomfort in the upper right abdomen
- Swelling in the abdominal region
- Red palms
- Enlarged blood vessels just below the skin’s surface
- Enlarged spleen
- Enlarged breasts in men
- Yellowish/jaundiced appearance of the skin and eyes
Causes and Risk Factors for NAFLD
Some diseases and conditions can increase an individual’s risk of developing non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. This includes:
- High cholesterol levels or triglyceride levels
- Obesity and belly fat
- Sleep apnea
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
- Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid)
- Hypopituitarism (underactive pituitary gland)
A closely related condition called non-alcoholic steatohepatitis is also common among people with the above risk factors, especially those older. The two conditions display similar symptoms and are often difficult to distinguish without further testing.
How Can I Prevent Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease?
The disease is unpredictable, but there are a few preventive measures that can help reduce an individual’s risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. These common lifestyle counsel are common across the board for other chronic conditions like diabetes and heart disease as well:
Healthy diet: Opt for a plant-based diet that’s rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains and healthy fats. Avoid saturated fat found in red meat, full fat dairy products, baked goods, chocolate, deep fried as well as processed foods. Also avoid trans-fat, which is again found in fried and processed foods. To read more about heart health and a heart-friendly diet, click here.
Exercise and healthy weight: Maintaining an ideal weight and exercising regularly can help improve overall well being and liver health too. Cut back on empty calories and chart out an exercise regimen according to your body’s needs. Here are a few things you can try!