One in four people worldwide have fatty liver
Obesity is a major public health problem and is associated with an increased risk of Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease, lifestyle modifications are crucial: IMA
Fatty liver, or steatosis, is a term that describes the buildup of fat in the liver. While it’s normal to have some fat in your liver, more than 5 to 10 percent of your liver weight is fat in the case of fatty liver. Fatty liver is a reversible condition that can be resolved with changed behaviors. It often has no symptoms and typically does not cause permanent damage.
As per a recent study pubished in the journal of Hepatology by Dr. Younossi and colleagues, the pooled worldwide prevalence of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, diagnosed through imaging, was found to be 25.24%. The Middle East and South America had the highest prevalence, while Africa had the lowest prevalence. Simple fatty liver is also very common in India reflecting the number of people who are obese or overweight. It is one of the most common forms of liver disease, with an estimated 30-40%% people in India having early forms of NAFLD.
Speaking about the same, Dr. SS Agarwal – National President IMA & Padma Shri Awardee Dr KK Aggarwal, Honorary Secretary General IMA & President HCFI said, “Obesity is a major public health problem and is associated with an increased risk of NAFLD among other metabolic disorders. Even a 5% weight loss can be enough, but we should aim for at least a 10% decrease in weight to reduce risk for metabolic syndrome. All physicians must encourage lifestyle changes in their patients and help them make the right choices about food and exercise. Diseases like NAFLD, obesity, diabetes and hypertension are all preventable and manageable. With their rising incidence, awareness generation is crucial.”
While simple fatty liver is not life-threatning, it can eventually lead to conditions which are including inflammation (non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, or NASH) and scarring of the liver. Given that the disease is linked to being overweight or obese, people suffering from the disease irrespective of its severity are more at risk of developing a stroke or heart attack – this risk appears to be higher in those who have NASH.
NAFLD is often diagnosed after liver function tests (a type of blood test) produce an abnormal result and other liver conditions, such as hepatitis, are ruled out. However, NAFLD can be present even when routine liver blood tests are normal. One is more likely to develop NAFLD and more severe forms of the disease, such as NASH, fibrosis or cirrhosis if they are obese or overweight, have type 2 diabetes, have high cholesterol, are over the age of 50 and smoke regularly.
The most important thing that people with NAFLD can do is to go on a gradual weight loss programme and exercise regularly. Simple fatty liver may go away if the underlying cause is tackled. For example, losing excess weight or controlling diabetes better can make fatty liver disappear. It takes up to 6 months for the fatty liver to return to normal after taking the appropriate actions. If a person with NAFLD smokes, it's really important to give it up, as smoking not only puts one at high risk of severe fatty liver conditions but also doubles the risk heart attack and stroke. It is also important to keep hypertension in check. Meditation and other stress management programs are recommended. While NAFLD is not caused by alcohol, it may make the condition worse. Hence it is important not to take alcohol when you are predisposed to NAFLD already. It doubles the risk of damage to the liver and hence cirrhosis can set in early.
Prevention is better than cure, make necessary lifestyle changes today.