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Home Liver care International NASH DAY: Decoding the right way to love your liver

International NASH DAY: Decoding the right way to love your liver

Verified By Apollo Hepatologist June 8, 2023 2497 0
NASH DAY
International NASH DAY

Do you know a ‘Jack of all Trades’? Someone who can do many different types of work and handle multiple challenges? In our body, that’s the Liver. From storing, filtering, digesting to regenerating…it does it all. It’s our personal security gate, detoxifying our guilty pleasures – sugar, alcohol…you name it! International NASH day, celebrated today, is a global effort to drive awareness about a silent epidemic that has been consistently tearing away at this personal security gate of ours. Read on to understand this better, find ways to take care of your liver and live your best life.

What’s NASH day? And does it even matter?

NASH stands for Non-Alcoholic Steatohepatitis. It is the liver manifestation of a metabolic disorder and is the most severe form of Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD). NAFLD is a condition where fat builds up in the liver in people who do not consume alcohol. Today, NAFLD is among the fastest-growing reasons for liver transplants across many developed and developing nations. It’s also known as a silent liver disease because it can happen without causing obvious symptoms, and is steadily becoming a leading contributor to cirrhosis, liver transplantation, and mortality. Patients with NASH-related cirrhosis are at higher risk of end-stage liver diseases, such as loss of liver function (decompensation), liver failure, and hepatocellular carcinoma (liver cancer). They are also at higher risk of death from cardiovascular disease and non-liver cancer. 

The best and only way we can get ahead of it is by understanding it clearly, modifying our lifestyle and ensuring we take the right tests at the right time. Read on to know more.

Beyond alcohol: What causes NAFLD?

Liver damage may not be only due to alcohol. Many people don’t realize that a poor lifestyle and diet from, say, processed sugar is almost as bad as the damage from alcohol. Amongst a cohort of over 3 lakh people who underwent health checks at Apollo Hospitals in the last year, 23% were found to have a fatty liver condition. Of these, three-quarters of the people did not have a history of consuming any alcohol, indicating that factors beyond alcohol consumption contribute significantly to this disease.

Globally the prevalence of NAFLD is estimated to be around 25% (22%-28%) while prevalence in Asia is around 27% (22% – 32%). However, we have seen the trend to be higher in India with prevalence among adults at 32% – 46% and among children at 18%- 54%. A major contributor for NAFLD in India is the metabolic risk factors related to inactive lifestyle and high consumption of carbs and fats.

Recognize early signs of NAFLD

  1. Weight and belly fat

Those who are overweight are at an increased risk of NAFLD. In the Indian context, if you have a BMI > 23 or waist circumference >80cm for women or >90cm for men, you must take the right preventive tests frequently to stay on top of this disease.  

Diabetes raises your risk of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.  At least half of people living with type 2 diabetes have nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. If you are diabetic or prediabetic, you must also get tested for fatty liver along with your glucose levels.

  • Raised cholesterol

Dyslipidemia (high  cholesterol) has long been linked with the irregular functioning of liver. So, if you’ve recently been diagnosed with high cholesterol, get yourself screened right away for fatty liver.

Studies have shown an increased risk of hypertension for those suffering from NAFLD. One particular study finds that those with NAFLD are three times more likely to have hypertension than those who don’t have the disease. Regular monitoring of blood pressure could help you identify any potential heart health issues.

  • Pain in the upper right abdomen

Potentially the clearest sign of a strained liver, though unlikely to appear in the early days of liver damage. If you are experiencing any pain in the upper right abdomen on a regular basis, we would recommend you visit your doctor at the earliest.

  • Constant Tiredness

Fatigue & weakness are symptoms of many different conditions. However, if you are experiencing fatigue and weakness along with some of the signs mentioned above, it could be because of poor liver health.

  • Binge eating

If you are feeling hungry all the time or having a craving for sugar on a regular basis, it could be an early sign of liver damage.  While it’s advisable to stop binge eating, it might also be important to get your liver health checked to assess if it is a contributory factor.

Diagnosis: The right tests at the right time

While there are several tests to understand your liver health at different stages, the most important one we recommend to anyone is an Abdominal Ultrasound. A secondary test would be the Liver enzyme and liver function blood tests. Just doing a Liver Function blood test is not sufficient to determine fatty liver. Our body is quite resilient, so the liver will continue to find ways to function normally even during early stages of fatty liver. Testing therefore only for liver enzymes without an ultrasound examination, is likely to miss catching this condition early. In health tests conducted at Apollo, the majority (close to 60%) of fatty liver cases diagnosed through ultrasound were Grade-I, both in alcoholic and non-alcoholic cases, which gives us a chance to correct early and even reverse the condition.

Fibroscan is another advanced diagnostic solution to detect fatty liver. It’s an enhanced form of ultrasound that measures the stiffness of your liver, which indicates fibrosis or scarring. Early diagnosis of significant fibrosis is very important as it identifies patients who are at risk for serious liver disease, and appropriate treatment can be given to them to prevent further damage. However, this scan is best done on a doctor’s recommendation.

We cannot say it enough – doing the right tests at the right time is crucial to stay one step ahead of any disease. Book your ProHealth check now.

Prevention: Your daily guide to Loving Your Liver

While there are advanced curative options and highly skilled doctors available today, prevention should always come first. The right lifestyle changes can not only prevent NAFLD from getting worse but can even reverse the condition!

  1. Watch what you eat. Have a high protein & low carbohydrate diet
  2. Assess your BMI. If you are obese or overweight, work towards losing weight
  3. Understand your associated risks. Control Diabetes, lower cholesterol and triglycerides
  4. Avoid alcohol or strive to consume only within the recommended ‘safe limit’
  5. Increase physical activity. 30 minutes of exercise at least five days a week is recommended.
  6. Never be too busy for a health screening. Understand your genetic predisposition, take periodical health tests, seek an appointment with a liver specialist to assess your risks, and take appropriate treatment.

Be Pro Health

At Apollo, we believe that each of us needs a health programme that is completely individualized to who we are. Generic health check-ups today offer a list of blood tests, which are important but not at all sufficient to determine what is really going on inside your body. For instance, in the case of fatty liver, just doing an LFT blood test is not enough. We must understand everyone’s health profile, tailor appropriate screening tests for them. Apollo ProHealth does exactly that.

Apollo’s ProHealth Program is an individualized and proactive health program that brings together predictive risk analysis, doctor-curated health packages, cutting-edge diagnostics with expert evaluation, and a personalized path to wellness, designed to make positive shifts – making you healthier. This health program is based on Apollo’s pioneering efforts in preventive care for almost 40 years and over 22 million health checks.

Check your health status and get a curated set of tests that are right for you.

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