It’s a condition you may not have heard of, but experts estimate that more than 100 million Americans live with it.
Fatty liver disease occurs when fat builds up in the liver, which can lead to fatal liver failure or cancer.
Obesity, poor diet and excessive alcohol consumption are likely responsible for the high prevalence in cases.
It kills more than 50,000 people a year, but the telltale signs, such as fatigue, are often ignored or mistaken for other problems.
The condition, along with heart disease, also contributed to the death of English musician George Michael in 2016.
Experts are calling on Americans to fight obesity through diet and exercise, and by cutting down on alcohol.
What is fatty liver disease?
The liver is the largest internal organ in the body and helps remove toxins from the blood and make bile to digest food
Fatty liver disease is the most common form of chronic liver disease.
The liver is the largest internal organ. It removes toxins from the blood and produces bile, a fluid that helps the body digest food.
Fatty liver disease is divided into two categories: non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and alcoholic fatty liver disease (AFLD).
AFLD is caused by excessive consumption of alcohol, while people with NAFLD drink little to no alcohol.
NAFLD and AFLD are conditions that cause fat to accumulate in the liver. This means that about five to ten percent of the liver’s weight is made up of fat.
About 100 million Americans have fatty liver disease, according to the American Liver Foundation. This is almost a third of Americans.
The most serious form of NAFLD is non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), which causes the liver to swell. This can lead to permanent scarring of the liver, known as cirrhosis.
The stages of AFLD are fatty liver disease, alcoholic hepatitis, and alcoholic cirrhosis.
The American Liver Foundation estimates more than 51,000 American adults died of liver disease in 2020.
What are the symptoms?
Fatty liver often has no symptoms at first. This can make it difficult to diagnose in the early stages.
Early signs, according to the Mayo clinicinclude fatigue and pain or discomfort in the upper right abdomen.
As the disease progresses, symptoms include swelling of the abdomen, enlarged blood vessels under the surface of the skin, enlarged spleen, red palms, and yellowing of the skin or eyes, known as jaundice.
Who is at risk?
According to the researchers, fatty liver disease is most often diagnosed in middle-aged people Johns Hopkins University.
Obesity is one of the most common risk factors for NAFLD, especially when fat is concentrated around the abdominal area.
Other risk groups are people with high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).
In AFLD, excessive consumption of alcohol is the main risk factor.
How is it diagnosed?
Fatty liver disease can be diagnosed through a series of blood tests, such as a complete blood count or liver function tests.
If those blood tests are abnormal, you may need imaging tests, such as an abdominal ultrasound, MRI, or CT scan.
If those tests are inconclusive, doctors may perform a liver biopsy, which removes a piece of tissue from the liver and looks for signs of inflammation and scarring.
What are the complications?
If the disease progresses, it can lead to permanent scarring of the liver, known as cirrhosis.
Cirrhosis can lead to swelling in various parts of the body, including the legs and abdomen, as well as high blood pressure, infections, and malnutrition.
It may also increase the risk of developing liver cancer, which is estimated to affect more than 41,000 American adults by 2023, according to the American Association of Clinical Oncology. Nearly 30,000 Americans are expected to die from the disease this year.
How can you prevent it?
Maintaining a healthy weight is one of the best ways to prevent the disease, as obesity is one of the most common risk factors.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Obesity can be prevented by regular exercise, following a healthy diet and limiting alcohol intake.
Several dietary strategies have been shown to lower the risk of fatty liver disease.
A meta-analysis published in Gastroenterological Research and Practicefor example, found that omega-3 fatty acids found in fish such as salmon, sardines and tuna reduced liver fat and increased levels of HDL (good) cholesterol.
In addition, a 2020 study found that patients with NAFLD who took 800 milligrams of garlic powder per day for 15 weeks had lower levels of liver fat.