There used to be a time when most cases of fatty liver were linked to excessive use of alcohol. But these days, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is on the rise.
It affects about 30 percent of all Americans, and an estimated 70 percent of diabetics have this disease.
When NAFLD strikes, your liver has a hard time breaking down fats. This leads to fatty build-up, scarring of the liver and even cirrhosis. But a new study shows that’s not all it does.
A more pressing threat that comes with NAFLD may be its effect on your cardiovascular health. In fact, cardiovascular death is a leading cause of death among people with this liver disease.
“NAFLD and cardiovascular mortality might not simply be mediated by shared, underlying, common risk factors, but rather that NAFLD independently contributes to increasing this risk,” says senior author Professor Vlad Ratziu, MD, PhD.
In an effort to determine the extent of this connection, researchers analyzed data on close to 6,000 patients. Their goal: To find out if NAFLD is the cause of atherosclerosis of the carotid arteries, the major blood vessels in the neck that supply blood to the brain, neck, and face.
After using ultrasound to take carotid measures, they found that fatty liver increases carotid thickness and carotid plaques among the patients. In fact, it was an even better predictor of cardiovascular risk than diabetes, cholesterol and triglycerides.
The American Liver Foundation offers the following recommendations to prevent liver damage from starting and potentially reverse early stage NAFLD:
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Eat a healthy diet
- Exercise regularly
- Limit alcohol intake
- Only take medicines that you need and follow dosing recommendations
SOURCE: ‘A fatty liver may result in a broken heart,’ according to new research. Press Release. Elsevier Health Sciences via EurekAlert. Apr 2016.