More than two million people in the UK have liver disease, and 16,000 die from it each year. Deaths from it have increased by 400% in just over 30 years, probably due to increased alcohol intake and obesity.
But contrary to popular opinion, it’s not just alcoholics who have liver damage – people who drink over the recommended alcohol limits, the obese, and those who’ve caught viral hepatitis are all at risk of cirrhosis, where the liver doesn’t function properly due to long-term damage.
After the skin, the liver is the largest organ in the body and has more than 500 functions including fighting infections; turning digested food into energy, and controlling levels of fat, amino acids and glucose in the blood.
There are more than 100 types of liver disease but the good news is that as much as 95% of liver disease is preventable.
Alcohol and obesity can both be tackled by lifestyle changes, and viral hepatitis – which affects around 700,000 people – can be avoided to a large extent with good awareness and precautionary measures.
The British Liver Trust recommends not exceeding the recommended 14 units of alcohol a week, with at least two booze-free days a week to give the liver a chance to recover.
People who have non-alcohol related fatty liver disease should try to maintain a healthy weight, eat a balanced diet, and take at least half an hour’s exercise a day.
For more information and to assess how healthy your liver is, visit www.loveyourliver.org.uk