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Love Your Liver 

The liver has a big job, and Americans’ tendency to eat too much sugar, salt and fat doesn’t make it any easier. When excess fat deposits in the liver cells, it’s called fatty liver disease. In someone with no history of alcohol abuse, it’s called non alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).

Most people have some fat in their liver, which is harmless. In fact, it often shows no symptoms and is typically diagnosed when a routine blood test shows elevated liver enzymes. But when increased fat deposits cause inflammation or cirrhosis, that can lead to permanent damage. Rita Lepe, M.D., a hepatologist (liver specialist) on the medical staff at Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas, helps outline the major risk factors:

  • Obesity. Seventy percent to 90 percent of people who are morbidly obese (100 pounds or more over their ideal body weight) have fatty liver disease.
  • Metabolic syndrome. This condition is defined by insulin resistance, abdominal obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and high triglycerides. 
  • Genetics. Some families are more prone to developing fatty liver disease. It is more common among Hispanics and certain Native American groups.

There’s no standard treatment for NAFLD, instead physicians typically help patients manage their risk factors. The American Liver Foundation recommends these steps to help prevent or reverse liver damage:

  • LOSE WEIGHT. Aim for 1 or 2 pounds a week. If diet and exercise aren’t enough, your physician may recommend medications or surgery.
  • PRACTICE HEALTHY HABITS. A diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains and low in saturated fat is best for your liver. Regular exercise also can help you lose weight and keep your whole body healthy.
  • LOWER YOUR TRIGLYCERIDES through diet, medication or both.
  • CONTROL DIABETES. Closely monitor your blood sugar.
  • AVOID ALCOHOL AND DRUGS, which can stress the liver.

For a referral to a liver specialist on the medical staff at Baylor Dallas, click here.