Did you know that the liver carries out over 500 essential tasks daily in the body? The liver plays a crucial role in numerous physiological processes including protein synthesis, bile production, macronutrient metabolism, blood volume regulation, and detoxification. Since the liver is a complex organ, a small problem in the liver can affect the body’s overall health. Therefore, keeping the liver healthy and preventing any serious liver disease is crucial. On this World Liver Day 2023, Dr Anubhav Jain, Consultant, Gastroenterology, Paras Health, Gurugram, explains the risk factors for liver disease.
Risk Factors For Developing Major Liver Conditions
The top five risk factors for developing major liver conditions are as follows.
Too Much Alcohol Consumption
The liver is the only organ that nature has given the ability to regenerate. But each time a person consumes alcohol, some of their liver cells die, and with prolonged alcohol abuse, the liver of a person loses the ability to regenerate itself.
Alcohol consumption can lead to a build-up of fats in the liver which can lead to alcoholic fatty liver. If a person does not stop drinking at this stage, it can lead to alcoholic hepatitis due to liver inflammation. This could eventually lead to scarring of the liver, more commonly known as cirrhosis. In some cases, it might even cause liver cancer.
Also Read: From Swelling To Jaundice: 6 Signs of Fatty Liver Disease Visible On Your Face
Liver damage can begin as early as four drinks per day for males and two drinks per day for women. And since there are no major symptoms of fatty liver, by the time symptoms occur in an individual, the damage might have already progressed beyond repair. Therefore, the best strategy to protect your liver is to avoid alcohol completely or reduce alcohol intake. Another thing to note is that mild liver conditions in the early stages are usually reversible if the patient quit alcohol permanently.
Since the liver is the chief detoxing organ of the body, it is also highly susceptible to toxicity. Overexposure to toxins can put pressure on the liver and harm it in the long run. Overexposure to toxins from the environment, chemicals in food or overuse of drugs can lead to inflammation or swelling of the liver, leading to toxic hepatitis.
Thus, it is a good practice to check warning labels and the chemical composition of food when shopping for your food in a supermarket. One should also wash their vegetables and fruits thoroughly to remove residual pesticides or chemicals from them.
History of Liver Disease
You are more vulnerable to liver diseases if you or your family members have suffered from any liver disease in the past. For example, if you have been diagnosed with hepatitis B or C in the past, it can increase your chances of getting liver cancer. Genetics also plays an important role here. For example, if a child inherits an abnormal gene from one or both of their parents, it can cause an accumulation of various substances in their liver, leading to blockage and liver damage.
Drugs Overdose or Supplements Misuse
A lot of over-the-counter supplements available on the market can cause liver damage. Taking one or more such supplements that affect the liver can aggravate the problem. Overdose of prescription medication or randomly consuming over-the-counter medication regularly can cause damage to the liver. Medication that contains acetaminophen, commonly found in painkillers, can cause liver conditions when taken in larger doses.
Also Read: 8 Tips To Avoid Fatty Liver Disease
Thus, whether it is over-the-counter medication or supplements, it is always advisable to consult a doctor before taking any medications or starting a supplement regime.
Obesity & High Cholesterol
An obese person is more susceptible to suffering from fatty liver disease and cirrhosis. Also, being overweight can increase the risk of developing liver cancer. High cholesterol can accelerate fatty liver disease and thus aggravate other liver complications.
Fatty Liver Routes to Diabetes
Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) is a condition where excess fat accumulates in the liver, typically due to obesity and a sedentary lifestyle. NAFLD is closely associated with insulin resistance, a key feature of type 2 diabetes. Insulin resistance leads to elevated blood glucose levels, which causes the pancreas to produce more insulin.
Over time, the pancreas may become exhausted and fail to produce enough insulin to maintain normal blood sugar levels, leading to type 2 diabetes. NAFLD also contributes to the development of metabolic syndrome, which is a cluster of conditions including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and abdominal obesity. All of these conditions increase the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Therefore, to protect your liver, you should live an active lifestyle, limit alcohol intake, limit saturated or trans-fat and sugar from your diet and get regular aerobic exercise.
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