Many people think that liver disease is caused solely by excessive alcohol consumption, but there are many other factors at work. The University of Birmingham’s Dr Patricia Lalor – lead educator on Liver Disease: Looking after Your Liver – explains more.
It might surprise you to learn that in the UK, liver disease kills more people than diabetes and road accidents combined. Alcohol-related harm certainly contributes to this – it’s estimated that 2.5 million deaths worldwide each year are related to alcohol – but it’s naïve to consider it the only contributing factor to the emerging global epidemic in liver disease.
Viral infection and obesity
Globally, viral infection is the major cause of liver damage, but physicians are increasingly becoming concerned about a new player in the field of liver disease – obesity. This is important because global rates of obesity have doubled since 2008, when over 500 million people could be considered to be obese.
Obesity increases the risk of developing fatty liver disease, which can lead to death from cardiovascular disease, cancer and liver failure. Fatty liver disease is a major, often unrecognised, global health challenge, which is ultimately preventable.
What can you do to look after your liver?
The first and perhaps most obvious thing is to try to minimise exposure to risk factors for known liver diseases – avoiding virus infection and exposure to toxins like excess alcohol, which damage the liver. Many of the viruses that damage the liver are introduced into your system by contact with infected blood or body fluids, so think about whether your lifestyle exposes you to this risk.
Also maintaining a healthy diet, normal weight and active lifestyle will dramatically reduce your likelihood of developing many obesity-related diseases like fatty liver disease and type 2 diabetes. Make sure your diet incorporates lots of fruit and vegetables that contain useful minerals and vitamins and also fibre, which helps your gastrointestinal system to function efficiently.
Finally, make sure you drink plenty of water – it’s good to keep your system efficiently hydrated and water doesn’t contain excess calories and commercial sweeteners, which are not beneficial.
If you want to learn more about the wonderful things your liver does to keep you alive, about fatty liver disease and other factors contributing to the dramatic increase in global liver disease, and how scientists and doctors are finding new ways to diagnose and treat liver disease, join our course.
Want to learn more about the liver? Join Liver Disease: Looking After Your Liver” now.