Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) Risks and Symptoms
November 28, 2022
Am I a Candidate for Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease?
Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) is a buildup of fat in the liver not associated with heavy alcohol consumption. There are 2 types. There is NAFLD and Non-alcoholic Steatohepatitis (NASH). NAFLD simply means you have fat in your liver, but this is not necessarily damaging. NASH is a more serious case of fatty liver where there is inflammation and liver cell damage. NASH can cause fibrosis (scarring of the liver) which can put you on a path from cirrhosis to liver cancer, liver failure, or even death. Statistics show that 25% of those with NAFLD progress to NASH and 7% lead to cirrhosis. For those with NAFLD without progression, the most common cause of death is cardiovascular disease.
Read on to learn more about the warning signs of NAFLD. Remember that Request A Test offers a menu of hundreds of affordable lab tests to give you the ability to check the health of your liver and a variety of other conditions.
Risk factors for NAFLD
Statistically, the highest risk factors for NAFLD are:
- Gender: Males are more likely to develop NAFLD than females
- Ethnicity: Hispanics have the highest incidence
- Age: Those between 40 and 50 years old are at the highest risk
- Type 2 Diabetes
Please note that NAFLD can occur in all age groups in all people. NAFLD is thought to be genetic as it tends to run in families. When one person in the family has been diagnosed the rest of the family should be tested with routine lab work even if there are no symptoms.
Symptoms of NAFLD
In many cases, there are no early symptoms of NAFLD which often contributes to it progressing to NASH because. People do not realize their health is at risk until they are already suffering from severe liver disease. The most common symptoms of Cirrhosis are jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes) due to the liver’s inability to filter bilirubin and excessive bleeding due to the liver’s inability to produce blood-clotting proteins.
Some symptoms of NASH include:
- Abdominal swelling
- Enlarged breasts in men
- Red palms
- Unexplained weight loss
- Aches in the upper part of the stomach
In routine lab work results may show increased levels of hormones that regulate sugar (i.e., insulin, cortisol), increased levels of triglycerides, and elevated levels of liver enzymes (ALP, ALT, AST, and GGT).
What causes NAFLD?
There still is research being done to answer why NAFLD happens. Why is there a build-up of fat in the liver? Why does NAFLD progress to NASH with some and not others? Researchers have found that genetics play a role and there is a link between NAFLD and obesity and type 2 Diabetes because insulin resistance, high blood sugar, and high triglycerides play a part. Metabolic Syndrome is a disease that shares a number of characteristics with NAFLD including obesity, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waistline, and abnormal cholesterol levels, especially high triglyceride. Research into possible links between metabolic syndrome and NAFLD is ongoing.
How can I prevent Fatty Liver Disease?
How can you prevent a fatty liver? Making healthy choices is a great start. The Mayo Clinic suggests a plant-based diet and Healthline suggests that a diet low in refined carbs (i.e., white flour, white rice, sweet desserts) can reverse NAFLD. Overall making healthy lifestyle choices that you feel you can stick with is key. Consistently eating healthy, day by day, meal by meal keeps us on track to maintaining or achieving a healthy weight. Exercising daily is not only physically healthy but can be mentally freeing also. Research shows that engaging in endurance exercise or resistance training between 4-5 times a week can reduce the amount of fat in the liver even if there is no weight loss. For those who cringe at sweating out a few reps consider walking as an alternative. Walking is a great way to clear your head, boost your mood, and lose weight at the same time.
- 15000 steps per day, every day of the week will burn the weight off.
- 40 minutes, 2-3 times a week reduces the risk of a heart attack in postmenopausal women.
- Prevent prediabetes from progressing to diabetes with a brisk walk. A study compared a brisk walk to a jog for a 6-month period and found that the walkers showed nearly a 6 times greater improvement in glucose tolerance than the joggers.
- 20 minutes a day, 5 days a week can boost your immunity with lesser sick days, shorter durations of sickness, and milder symptoms.
- A 15-minute brisk walk fends off the cravings for those late-night snackers.
In terms of medical research and advancements with NAFLD, the Endocrine Society presented, at their ENDO 2022 annual meeting, research findings involving Growth Hormone. Growth Hormone is often used to reduce inflammation and body fat. Researchers wanted to see if Growth Hormone could work the same with liver fat, inflammation, and fibrosis. The study consisted of 41 participants who were given Growth Hormone or a placebo for a 6-month period. An MRI at the end of the 6-month trial confirmed that those participants who were given Growth Hormone had improved results on liver function tests, improved markers for inflammation, and improved measures for liver fat and fibrosis. No negative side effects were experienced by those administered the Growth Hormone. Growth Hormone offers a potential future treatment option and has not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration yet.
Are there Lab Tests for NAFLD?
Do you or someone you know feel they are a high-risk candidate for NAFLD? Has someone in your family already been diagnosed with NAFLD? Request A Test offers testing to assist you with knowing your numbers to see if you are at risk. Early detection is best to get you on track to you living your best life. Following are some lab tests that can help:
Hepatic Function: A liver function panel measures several liver enzymes as well as other factors related to liver health.
Lipid Panel: High cholesterol and triglycerides
Diabetes Panel: Tests such as fasting glucose and A1C can help assess risk for type 2 diabetes which has a strong association with NAFLD.
Request A Test offers these and other tests to assess liver function along with many other health conditions. The power to take charge of your health is in your hands. Order your own testing with no need to wait for a doctor's visit. Remember that preliminary blood testing is a great first step to monitoring your health but a correct diagnosis of NAFLD may require a more thorough examination. Talk to your doctor about any irregular test results to determine what the next step should be.
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