Weight gain has certainly established itself as the top health concern of today, with the frequent occurrence and effects it has on our bodies being widely reported in both health care and in the media.
The discussion surrounding obesity is usually focused on the serious health issues that accompany it, such as heart disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer. It is not only about having extra weight; it is about the various medical difficulties that result from it.
Despite this, there is an issue that often goes unrecognized - the harm done to the liver, one of the most essential organs of the body.
As an Internist, I am aware of the consequences of our diets and lifestyles on the liver. Liver disease leads to two million fatalities every year, globally. A quarter of adults around the world have MASLD, which is previously known as nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, and oftentimes, they are asymptomatic. Approximately one hundred million Americans possess some type of liver issue, yet only a small fraction of them have a formal diagnosis.
As liver disease is increasing alarmingly, it is essential that we talk to our patients about their liver health in order to change the situation from its current course.
Our healthcare providers could soon be overwhelmed by the rising rates of MASLD and MASH (formerly known as NASH), which will also result in a huge financial burden on our healthcare system. The economic cost of MASLD alone is estimated to be around 32 billion in the US each year, which is approximately the same amount as strokes.
The liver has a major impact on a person's overall health, performing more than 500 vital functions. It is associated with almost all the body's organ systems, being responsible for detoxifying, synthesizing, and storing.
The liver is a silent indicator of bad dietary and lifestyle habits, yet its remarkable resilience means that its cry for help often remains unheard until it's too late, resulting in the diagnosis of cirrhosis or cancer.
An advantage to having a strong organ is that harm in the early stages can usually be reversed. In reality, people can take small steps to make a huge impact - a slight decrease in weight, combined with light physical exercise several times a week, can help improve the liver's overall health, potentially reversing a considerable amount of the damage.
Due to the liver's capacity for enduring greater levels of damage, the manifestations of the illness often go unnoticed in those with a severe form of the disorder.
Liver disease takes more lives than Colon and Breast cancer combined. We are all aware of the public health initiatives and media attention that encourages people to get annual mammograms from the age of 40 and colonoscopies from 45.
There is no symptom or indication that encourages people to seek medical advice concerning their liver health, so why is there not more of a push for public health campaigns to emphasize the significance of liver illness and diagnosis? Why are liver tests not part of our regular check-ups?
This year, the American Diabetes Association, the American Association for the Study of Liver Disease, and the American Gastroenterological Association have all issued warnings that have been heard around the world. These organizations have recommended earlier screenings to detect liver disease in its earliest stages when treatments and interventions can be used to slow or even reverse the damage.
Timely diagnosis is a key factor in battling the ever-increasing liver disease problem. Advancements in technology have made earlier screenings more practicable than ever. Endocrinologists and gastroenterologists can use non-invasive tests to examine the liver of a patient in their own practice within 10 minutes. Such scans can be conducted in a doctor's office in a few minutes with no need for surgery or hospitalization. Furthermore, they can be used to not only identify the disease but also gauge its progression or even verify whether the damage has been reversed. I have witnessed many patients who have made progress after taking the necessary steps, which has motivated them to persist with healthful diets and lifestyles.
As a medical professional, I am passionate about ensuring that my patients do not go unidentified with this illness that has few symptoms. It is vital for both clinicians and patients to take steps to alter the state of America's liver wellbeing. More individuals must become cognizant of the dangers of liver illness, more providers should suggest and utilize liver scans, and the press should be utilized to spread the message on the value of liver health.