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Are You at Risk? Fatty Liver Disease is a Silent, Deadly Epidemic

If there ever was a more urgent time to talk about fatty liver disease that time is now.

While the headlines have been screaming about COVID-19, there is another epidemic that has been concealed in silence. That is, an epidemic of fatty liver disease.

Approximately 1 in 4 persons worldwide has fatty liver disease, the fastest growing and largest segment of chronic liver disease. In North America alone, there are 100 million people with a fatty liver, and the majority are underdiagnosed.

Driven largely by the increasing prevalence of diabetes and obesity, fatty liver disease is a cause for great concern. Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) is an early-stage form of fatty liver disease that occurs when there is an accumulation of fat in the liver. NAFLD can progress to a more severe form of fatty liver disease called Non-Alcoholic Steatohepatitis (NASH) characterized by inflammation and the formation of scar tissue.

Known as the silent killer, fatty liver disease shows no symptoms until your liver is severely damaged. Left untreated, the disease can lead to chronic illness, organ failure, cancer and ultimately death. Advanced disease will likely require a liver transplant, which poses a great financial burden for the patient and the healthcare system.

While fatty liver disease existed long before COVID-19, the year-long pandemic diet of comfort food and increased alcohol consumption has accelerated the risk of developing this disease, with obesity and diabetes as comorbidities. In fact, the pandemic has contributed to increased weight gain for 42 per cent of US adults, according to a recent study by the American Psychological Association.

Making matters worse is low public and provider awareness of the disease, a lack of early screening to assess millions of people before the onset of advanced disease, and no available drug treatment.

It’s time to course-correct this emerging health crisis. Here are three things you can do to take care of your liver.

  1. Reduce Your Risk

Maintaining a healthy diet and weight are key in preventing and decreasing liver fat. Avoid foods that are processed, and high in saturated fat and sugar, and engage in daily physical activity. With the advent of interventional digital weight loss tools, there are now additional resources available to support you in achieving your health and wellness goals.

  1. Know the Signs & Symptoms

Fatty liver can be asymptomatic in the early stages. Although not all or any may be present early on, signs of fatty liver include fatigue, pain in the abdominal area, yellowing of eyes and skin, loss of appetite and nausea.

  1. Get Tested

The good news is that if detected early, fatty liver disease can be stopped from progressing and potentially reversed, protecting the health of your liver. Both the American College of Gastroenterology and the American Diabetes Association recommend screening for those at high risk.

Ask your doctor for a blood or imaging test to learn your liver numbers (amount of liver fat and fibrosis). The introduction of new non-invasive tests like VelacurTM offer a fast, accurate and practical way to measure your liver health in a doctor’s office near you.

It’s time to end the silence, so everyone can be aware of this epidemic.

Your liver is essential for your life. It’s a critical organ that rids your body of harmful substances. If you take care of your liver, your liver will take care of you.