Fatty liver disease is a common condition that’s caused by excess fat stored in the liver. In many cases, people don’t exhibit signs and it doesn’t lead to bigger health issues. But in some, it can lead to liver failure. If you are diagnosed with fatty liver disease, it’s important to take it seriously and make lifestyle changes. The good news is you can prevent and reverse fatty liver disease with healthy habits since the liver has an incredible way of repairing itself. Eat This, Not That! Health talked to medical experts who explain what you need to know about a fatty liver.
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Dr. Ira Jacobson, Chief of Hepatology and professor of medicine at NYU Langone Health explains, “NAFLD (nonalcoholic fatty liver disease) affects an estimated 30 percent of adults in America. Caused by the excess buildup of fat in the liver the condition is closely linked to the rising incidence of obesity and type 2 diabetes. Left unchecked, it can be as damaging as liver cancer and liver failure, as well as cardiovascular disease.”
Dr. Jagdish Khubchandani, MBBS, Ph.D. Professor of Public Health New Mexico State University adds, “It is a fairly common health issue affecting 20-30 percent of adult Americans. Liver helps digest food, remove toxins, and process fat, but when it is overwhelmed, there is fat accumulation.”
The Cleveland Clinic states, “In most cases, fatty liver disease doesn’t cause any serious problems or prevent your liver from functioning normally. But for 7% to 30% of people with the condition, fatty liver disease gets worse over time. It progresses through three stages:
- Your liver becomes inflamed (swollen), which damages its tissue. This stage is called steatohepatitis.
- Scar tissue forms where your liver is damaged. This process is called fibrosis.
- Extensive scar tissue replaces healthy tissue. At this point, you have cirrhosis of the liver.”
Dr. Khubchandani explains, “Given the high prevalence, it is easy to infer that many cases have no symptoms or history of problems (except when obvious with alcohol use). Lab tests, physical exams, and imaging is needed in a large proportion of cases. Some common symptoms are abdominal pain, weakness, swollen abdomen and legs- if at all one has symptoms.”
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