In Rutherford County, an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 area residents have a silent condition that can develop into a serious health threat.
Most don’t know they have it, yet it can lead to an early death.
It is becoming more common due to our population’s expanding waistline.
This growing health concern involves people that have developed a form of liver disorder known as non-alcoholic steatohepatitis. It is also known as non-alcoholic fatty liver disorder.
Often the result of obesity or dietary habits the problem can be prevented or reversed, but it is often not diagnosed.
In many cases where it is diagnosed, the condition is discovered accidentally.
Early symptoms may be generalized fatigue and malaise. Or, as some of my relatives might say, a person’s “get up and go has got up and gone.”
It is also possible that fatty liver patients have no recognizable symptoms at all. The condition can be progressive depending upon a number of factors including body mass, dietary habits, heredity, medications and other conditions.
A persistent lack of energy may be one factor that leads a patient to contact their doctor for testing.
Blood tests for a patient with NASH will often reveal elevated liver enzymes. There are other reasons that liver enzymes might be elevated, but NASH may be suspected if a patient is obese, has insulin resistance or other symptoms.
A specialized ultrasound or perhaps liver biopsy might be required for confirmation as well as to define the extent of the disease.
If left untreated, fatty liver may continue to be benign, or may develop into a more severe form of hepatic illness.
Fatty liver is often associated with the condition known as metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is a combination of conditions that include abdominal obesity (belly fat), insulin resistance, elevated blood pressure and elevated blood cholesterol.
Mild cases of fatty liver may be reversible simply by losing weight. In fact, for mild cases it may be possible to reverse the condition by losing as little as 10 percent body weight.
For best outcomes, slow, methodical weight loss is best. Adding moderate activity at the same time that caloric restrictions are incorporated to daily habits will yield the best long-term results.
Dietary modifications, specifically restricting carbohydrates and more specifically eliminating sources of excessive fructose have been found to be helpful. That would include restricting soft drinks and other foods that contain high-fructose corn syrup.
If you have already encountered problems that might be indicative of metabolic syndrome or have any question about ongoing fatigue or other symptoms, a medical evaluation is important.
Like many other conditions that are brought about partly as a result of lifestyle choices, making different choices now can begin the process of reversing the disorder.