Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is the most common chronic liver condition in the United States. The condition develops when the liver stores excess amounts of fat. Approximately 25 percent of U.S. adults have NAFLD. Of those, about 20 percent have NASH (5% of adults in the U.S.), a more severe form of the disease that damages the liver. While most people with NAFLD have simply fatty liver, you may be wondering, “Should I be worried about NASH?” If you’re at risk, yes.
First, the Risk Factors of NASH
NAFLD is also known as simple fatty liver. Every liver contains some amount of fat. Even up to a certain amount, the fat doesn’t interfere with liver functions. In some individuals, the accumulation of fat triggers inflammation (NASH) of the liver that causes injury to its cells over time. Having NASH increases the risk of progression to more severe conditions like fibrosis (scarring) of the liver, cirrhosis, and liver cancer.
Liver disease often shows no symptoms until the later stages, when it’s less likely to reverse the damage. Most individuals won’t know they have it, so understanding your risk is vital. We do not know what exactly causes fatty liver disease. However, you are more likely to develop NAFLD and NASH if you:
- Have type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes
- Are diagnosed with high blood pressure
- Have high levels of triglycerides in your blood
- Are overweight or obese
In addition, health officials and researchers are learning more about certain chronic conditions and other factors linked with fatty liver disease. Hispanics not only have a higher prevalence of developing NAFLD but are also more likely to progress to the more severe forms. Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), metabolic syndrome, and obstructive sleep apnea are other conditions with a link of increased NAFLD risk.
Here’s What You Can Do
Knowing your risk allows you to take a proactive approach to your health that may save your life. By working with your doctor, regular diagnostic testing can determine the health of your liver and monitor any changes over time. The great news is that you may be able to stop or reverse the progression of NAFLD and NASH if you already have them. Those at risk may also be able to prevent developing it altogether.
Adopting a healthier lifestyle is the most impactful thing you can do for those currently diagnosed with NAFLD and NASH and those at risk. Exercising regularly, eating a well-balanced and sensible diet, reducing your alcohol intake, and losing weight are the best changes you can make. They are vital in managing fatty liver disease and play a significant role in reducing your risk.
Although there are no FDA-approved treatments for NAFLD or NASH, potential new options are being evaluated in clinical research studies. Endeavor Clinical Trials offers FREE fibroscan testing for adults at risk of fatty liver disease. Fibroscan is a quick, painless, and non-invasive way to determine your liver health. If your results indicate you have fatty liver, our staff can help determine if one of our current or upcoming research studies may be an option. To schedule your FREE fibroscan, call (210) 949-0807, or complete a request online.