One in four adults may have non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NASH), which increases the risk of heart disease, research shows.
It can go undetected for years, but early diagnosis could save lives, experts say.
A healthy weight, regular exercise, and a balanced diet can reduce the risk of the following heart diseases.
An estimated one in four adults has a commonly overlooked liver condition that increases the risk of heart disease, according to a new study from the American Heart Association (AHA).
Known as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), it occurs when the body deposits abnormally large amounts of fat in the liver, which can lead to scarring and inflammation, according to the journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology on April 14.
However, fat storage can cause further damage to health. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in people with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Liver and heart disease share many common risk factors, such as type 2 diabetes and obesity. Metabolic syndrome (elevated blood sugar and blood triglyceride levels, internal abdominal fat accumulation, and high blood pressure) can also be a consequence.
Doctors often overlook NASH
In their study, the scientists say that NASH is often overlooked in routine medical care. NAFLD can go unnoticed for years.
P. Barton Duell, chairman of the American Heart Association committee, says, “It’s important to be aware of the condition and treat it early because it’s a risk factor for chronic liver damage and cardiovascular disease.” to raise awareness of this disease and hopefully improve access to screening tools.
Treatment is possible and easy.
If diagnosed early enough, NASH can be managed well with lifestyle changes.
While genetics can affect whether someone develops fatty liver, a healthy lifestyle can help prevent it, according to the AHA. They recommend exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet, and maintaining a healthy weight.
“Although a healthy lifestyle can help prevent NASH in many people, some may develop NASH despite the best efforts,” explains Duell. Conversely, however, genetic factors could also prevent people from developing fatty liver despite obesity, type 2 diabetes, unhealthy eating habits, or lack of exercise.
Exercise and a healthy diet help reduce liver fat
A weight loss of 10 percent of body weight dramatically reduces liver fat, according to the AHA, and even a 5 percent weight loss leads to noticeable improvements, the scientists said in a statement.
Researchers recommend moving 20 to 30 minutes a day. This can reduce liver fat and improve insulin sensitivity. Regarding diet, they recommend reducing the consumption of fats and simple sugars, avoiding alcohol and eating fiber-rich vegetables and whole grains.