The liver is one organ in the body often forgotten even as it chugs away, performing vital tasks every moment of our lives. Some may not appreciate all that the liver does until the threat of disease enters the picture. It’s vital to keep liver health in mind and get the screenings needed to stay healthy, especially if you’re susceptible to diseases that impact this vital organ.
The liver has a multitude of functions in the body, including making proteins, producing bile to aid in digestion, storing iron, converting nutrients into energy, creating substances to help your blood clot and detoxifying the body in order to boost your immune system to resist infection.
But I’m not an alcoholic
Common diseases affecting the liver are ones you may have heard of and are associated with alcoholism. Alcohol and drug usage can cause fatty liver disease and cirrhosis, a condition in which hard scar tissue replaces healthy tissue and causes a breakdown in the organ’s function. Although longtime drinking destroys the liver and its detoxification system, consuming alcohol or drugs is not the only way to end up with liver issues.
Other liver diseases can develop even in healthy individuals. Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is one of these but, as the name suggests, it’s not caused by imbibing too much. This disease currently impacts approximately 100 million Americans, including children, and doesn’t discriminate for body weight, although obesity is a risk factor. The disease, known as “hepatitis” with its familiar alphabetical viruses (A, B and C), causes inflammation and damages the liver. Most people are vaccinated against these threats, but they are still common. Family genetics and other illnesses, such as cancer, can also contribute to a decrease in liver function or a disease that overtakes the organ.
Happy liver, healthy liver
Because it has so many important functions, it’s important to take good care of your liver, just like you would your heart, lungs, and other vital organs. Screening tests are the best way to detect any liver problems, and if your family is prone to liver disease or you have a past history of alcoholism, your doctor will want to include these in your yearly blood work. In fact, some doctors suggest that every adult have these screenings yearly since they easily discern acute or chronic problems and other liver diseases that can be dangerous or even deadly.
The Echosens FibroScan is recognized worldwide as a noninvasive tool for patients and doctors to get a clear picture of overall liver health. If you have recovered from COVID-19, even if your symptoms were mild, you may want to speak to your doctor about having your liver tested sooner rather than later, as this virus has been known to cause functional problems and possibly cause damage.
Making healthy lifestyle choices is another way to keep your liver (and overall body) in great shape. Those who are prone to diseases like obesity and type 2 diabetes will want to get on a program in which they can maintain a healthy weight and blood sugar level. Eating a healthy diet rich in fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins is another way to help your liver continue to function at its best. Consuming alcohol is okay, with doctors recommending no more than one drink per day for women and two for men. However, moderation is key, especially when it comes to something that could keep your liver from functioning at its best.
When you begin to make healthy choices that help your liver, your overall well-being will improve, too. It’s empowering to know that taking care of yourself with regular screenings and a lifestyle dedicated to maintaining health can ensure that your vital organs continue to function at their best. Don’t take your liver for granted. Instead, talk to your doctor about regular screenings to ensure the ongoing health of this vital organ.