5 Steps to a Healthier Liver

October is Liver Awareness Month. Although liver disease is on the rise, you can take steps to protect yourself and improve your health.

Don’t take your liver for granted.  The liver is the second largest organ in your body and it has a critical job to do.  It detoxifies the body, filters blood, aids in digestion and breaks down hormones. It keeps you energized by releasing glucose into the bloodstream and helps to process fats and medications.  But unfortunately, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and liver cancer – two major threats to your liver - are on the rise.  This month, Darryn Potosky, MD, AGAF has an important article in the magazine Clarksville Neighbors to explain the five top ways in which people can help to keep their livers healthy.  Here is a short preview:

Maintain a healthy weight

The best thing you can do for your liver is to maintain a healthy weight.  Look at it this way: The major reason for the sharp rise of NAFLD (which is caused by having too much fat stored in the liver) is the obesity epidemic.  After obesity leads to excess fat build up in the liver, it can create inflammation and in turn cause the development of scar tissue in the liver (fibrosis) and eventually lead to cirrhosis.  If you’re currently overweight, Dr. Potosky’s advice is to begin making lifestyle changes involving diet and exercise to lose weight now.

Drink in moderation or not at all

Drinking too much alcohol can lead to fat accumulation in the liver and liver damage.  If you have any known risk factors for liver disease, drink alcohol only in strict moderation or seriously consider quitting completely.

Get vaccinated or screened

You’ve probably heard that there is now a recommendation by the CDC for all baby boomers to be screened for Hepatitis C.  But if you fit any of the risk factors, you should also consider getting vaccinated for hepatitis A and B.   Preventing these diseases can reduce your risk of both liver cancer and liver damage.  

Monitor existing medical conditions

Being proactive about monitoring medical conditions that are known to contribute to liver disease - such as diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, coronary artery disease, and high cholesterol – is critical.  Patients with these conditions should have their liver checked by blood work and get a referral to a GI specialist if anything is abnormal.  

Keep up with routine blood work, as well

There is a good reason why liver disease is often considered a “silent disease.” People who have it can be very slow to develop symptoms, if they develop them at all.    Often, symptoms will not occur until patients develop cirrhosis.  Being proactive about getting routine blood work to check the liver, helps to ensure that it’s not too late to make a change to help the liver heal.

In short, take care of your liver so that it can take better care of you.   The good news is that many methods of liver disease prevention are in your hands. 

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