It’s a common misconception that only people who drink large amounts of alcohol develop liver problems. The truth is that fatty liver disease can occur in people who consume little to no alcohol. The liver is the largest organ within the human body and plays an essential role in digestion. It helps your body break down food, store energy, and remove toxic substances. Fatty liver disease is a condition in which fat builds up in your liver, preventing it from doing its job.
There are two significant types of liver disorders: alcoholic fatty liver disease (alcoholic steatohepatitis) and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Alcoholic fatty liver disease results from excessive and long-term alcohol use. Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, or NAFLD, refers to a group of liver conditions in people who aren’t frequent alcohol drinkers. In NAFLD, too much fat stays within liver cells.
According to the American Liver Foundation, about 100 million people in the U.S. have NAFLD, and it is the most common liver disease. Unfortunately, NAFLD is also found in children, doubling in numbers for young people within the last few decades. NAFLD can turn into nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), which has significant lasting consequences if left untreated. NASH can cause permanent scarring of the liver (cirrhosis) or liver cancer.
Because the liver plays such a vital role within the body, it’s crucial to see a healthcare professional if you see the following symptoms.
10. Your Cholesterol Is High
High triglycerides or LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels can signify NAFLD because they indicate the liver’s inability to flush out fat from the blood. The liver makes and regulates cholesterol, but when we consume fatty foods and the liver is already clogged with fat, the cholesterol in our blood rises. Having your cholesterol levels checked routinely can help you keep tabs on your liver function.
9. You Have High Blood Pressure
Studies show that people who have NAFLD are more likely to have high blood pressure than those without the disease. What that link stems from remains unknown, but it’s thought to be cardiovascular. For this reason, monitoring blood pressure is vital, especially if NAFLD is suspected.