Fatty Liver Disease: How to prevent your risks and manage it

Disclaimer: All text and images published in this article are for general information and educational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional advice. Always consult a registered health professional regarding any health-related diagnosis or treatment options.

Affecting roughly about 1 in 3 Australians, fatty liver disease is on the rise. Often detected incidentally, this chronic liver disease can extend beyond damaging your liver; it can also increase heart disease and diabetes risk. 

The liver is easy not to notice. Unlike your heart, your liver doesn’t beat faster when you’re anxious, or it doesn’t growl when you’re hungry. 

It remains silent and works from “behind the scene”. The liver is one of the most important human organs performing several vital functions. 

The liver’s main job is to filter the blood coming from the digestive tract before passing it to the rest of the body. Apart from that, it also detoxifies chemicals and metabolises drugs. 

What happens when we have a fatty liver? 

When you have a lot of fat in your liver, it can be serious. Too much fats deposited in the liver can cause liver inflammation, which can lead to liver scarring. And when the scarring is severe, it can cause liver failure. 

In addition to your liver health problems, a person with fatty liver needs to be more worried about their heart health and stroke. A person with fatty liver disease has a risk of dying from heart disease twice as high as someone with no fatty liver disease. This is because the fatty liver can be associated with damage to the arteries, contributing to a heart attack or stroke. 

Since a fatty liver is often detected as part of an investigation for other medical conditions, a regular liver screening and visiting your doctors can get you the correct diagnosis.

How to prevent a fatty liver? 

Alcohol abuse can lead to fatty liver, but it may also have no role at all. When the fatty liver’s inflammation is linked to alcohol use, it is called Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease or ALD. Otherwise, it is called Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease, NAFLD. 

Anyone who drinks heavily for a long time, probably months or years, put themselves at high risk of alcoholic fatty liver disease. However, fatty liver can also arise from poor dietary habits, a sedentary lifestyle and obesity. 

Who is at risk for developing fatty liver? 

You are at a greater risk of developing fatty liver if you:

  • Have obesity or are overweight  
  • Have high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol levels 
  • Have been diagnosed with diabetes or pre-diabetes 
  • Have obstructive sleep apnea

In general, there are several ways to get rid of fatty liver, which includes:

1) Maintaining a healthy weight for a healthier liver 

Maintaining a healthy weight is a effective way to prevent fatty liver, fatty liver doctor in Brisbane

If you’re obese, losing weight to a healthy level can ward off potential fatty liver risk. In fact, weight loss is one of the best ways to reverse fatty liver

In many cases, losing some extra kilos seems to have a direct effect; as people lose weight, the fatty liver becomes less fatty. Hence, being active and regular exercise are the primary treatments for most cases of fatty liver disease. 

What’s more, even losing 10% of your body weight might be enough to restore your liver’s function.

Losing some extra kilos seems to have a direct effect; as people lose weight, the fatty liver becomes less fatty.

2) Limiting your alcohol consumption 

Alcohol is one of the biggest causes of fatty liver. The risk of developing alcoholic fatty liver disease depends on how much you drink and how often. 

Even when drinking heavily for a few days, the liver cells get swollen with fat globules and water. If you’re obese and have high blood sugar, your risk of developing a fatty liver is heightened with drinking. 

Although alcoholic fatty liver disease is difficult to diagnose, a blood test may help in diagnosis. 

3) Change your dietary habits

Some studies suggest a Mediterranean Diet can help decrease fats from your liver. 

Usually, a diet that emphasises eating fruits and vegetables and cutting down on processed food and carbs can help prevent the risk of fatty liver. 

Many researchers agree that improving insulin sensitivity is a key strategy for treating non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, which means overfeeding in fats is not at all a good idea for your liver health.  

Last Word On Prevention 

Limiting alcohol consumption, eating healthy, including certain food in your diet, and maintaining a healthy weight are best practices for preventing fatty liver disease. 

Diagnosis of fatty liver disease

A Hepatologist looking into a patient's Liver CT scan in Queensland Gastroenterologist, Brisbane

Fatty liver disease diagnosis can be tricky. Most people don’t show symptoms, even when it has developed into something serious. 

So, more often, fatty liver disease is accidentally discovered. If your doctor notices something unusual in the blood test, they will ask for more blood tests, liver function tests, an ultrasound, a CT Scan of the liver or an MRI. 

It is best advised to meet a liver specialist, called a Hepatologist. At our Clinical Hepatology service at Greenslopes Private Hospital in Brisbane, our team of doctors are highly experienced in managing fatty liver disease. 

FibroScan at our Greenslopes Private Hospital, Brisbane 

One way to find the severity of the fatty liver disease is by measuring fibrosis in the liver. At our Greenslopes Private Hospital, we offer Fibrosis Assessment through FibroScan

FibroScan is an easy, non-invasive procedure to assess the degree of scarring of the liver. 

This is a relatively new way to find liver scarring similar to ultrasound and is widely used in fatty liver diagnosis.

For your best liver health, meet our hepatologists for a consultation. You can request a Hepatology Booking here or give us a call at (07) 3324 1500. 

Authored by:

Queensland Gastroenterology and Professor Darrell Crawford

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