Early screening, intervention only way to stop fatty liver epidemic, says expert

Published on: 6 December 2021, 10:54 am IST

Fatty liver diseases in India are unfortunately on the rise due to the absence of a healthy lifestyle. Here’s how to combat it.

liver
Avoid fatty liver disease with healthy habits. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
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India’s Non-Communicable Disease (NCD) burden is growing at an alarming rate. According to an Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) report, the prevalence of NCD is 116 per 1,000 population, showing an increase after 18 years, and a quantum leap when an individual crosses the age of 35 years. Hypertension, liver disorders, digestive diseases and diabetes are the most prevalent NCDs among young Indians.

The survey found that environmental factors are the biggest cause of NCDs, followed by inactive lifestyle, imbalanced diet and intoxication (alcohol and tobacco consumption).

liver
What you eat and drinks affects your liver. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

The ASSOCHAM-TARI report found that more than two-thirds of individuals suffering from NCDs are in the most productive life age group — between 26 and 59 years. This is an alarming trend and points to the grim reality that the burden of NCDs on India is long-lasting, given that 65 percent of the country’s population is below 35 years of age!

What are some of the most common scenarios?

Unhealthy eating habits, consuming more processed foods, increasing stress levels, lack of exercise, and inadequate sleep. Moreover, air and noise pollution are other important factors causing lifestyle disorders.

Also, our genes play a major role in triggering lifestyle disease. For instance, some of us are more prone to developing diabetes, high blood pressure and fatty liver disease, as compared to others. The Indian male population is known to be more prone to these lifestyle diseases, as compared to other population groups.

Earlier, these lifestyle disorders affected people above 60 years of age but in the last two decades, we have seen a sustained and gradual shift of age group for these diseases. Amongst all these lifestyle disorders, liver diseases have been one among the leading causes of deaths in India.

In the year 2017, the World Health Organization (WHO) released a report warning of increasing incidences of liver diseases in India. It stated that around 10 lakh patients of liver cirrhosis are newly diagnosed every year in India. Liver disease is the tenth most common cause of death in the country. In recent times, especially Non-Alcoholic SteatoHepatitis (NASH) has been a huge cause of concern, affecting nearly 30-40 percent of the younger population in India. We see that every third or fourth NASH patient is less than 50 years in age; and almost 20-30 percent of young patients get abdominal ultrasound during health checkups, ending up with fatty liver diagnosis. This is a dangerous trend for our society. NASH has the potential to spark the next epidemic in our country!

The last word

The only way to stop this epidemic is to promote early screening and diagnosis as well as timely intervention. Diagnosis of fatty liver is the beginning, and if left untreated, many of these patients will develop NASH in due course of time. Some of these NASH patients will develop cirrhosis and liver failure, some of these patients can develop liver cancer (HCC) too!

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Your daily dose of exercise can also help keep your liver fit. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Prevention is, therefore, extremely crucial; it will need a holistic lifestyle change. Once we understand what causes these disorders, we need to avoid those things. Eating healthy green leafy vegetables, avoiding processed food, regular exercises, having a good night’s sleep, and avoiding too much stress are some of the things that people must resort to.

Avoiding alcohol and tobacco can keep our liver and heart healthy. Most of the raw and green leafy vegetables have antioxidants, which keep our body and organs healthy. With these simple yet vital healthy habits, we can certainly prevent the epidemic of fatty liver disease to impact the future of India.

Dr Gaurav Gupta Dr Gaurav Gupta

Dr Gaurav Gupta, Consultant and Chief Surgeon, Department of Liver Transplant and HPB Surgery, Fortis Hospital, Mumbai 

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