Up to 46% of Americans suffer from "fatty liver," a condition of the liver that can place you at risk for cirrhosis. What is it, who gets it, how can you tell if you have it, and what can you do to treat it?
Here’s a great topic suggestion from a listener who inspired me to write today’s episode.
Such a common issue, l can’t believe I haven’t thought of it these past few years while podcasting for Quick and Dirty Tips. Thank you for the suggestion (and for the compliment), Ravi!
Has your doctor told you that you have something called “fatty liver”? If so, you’re not alone. In fact, studies estimate that up to 46% of the U.S. population may have fatty liver, and this continues to rise sadly as our obesity epidemic worsens in this country. It is by far the most common cause of liver issues in both men and women..
What Is Fatty Liver?
The more accurate diagnosis is termed, “Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease” (NAFLD), but for our purposes let’s refer to it as “fatty liver” for short.
The words “fat” and “liver” seem pretty odd in the same sentence. It can sound intimidating to hear your doctor tell you that your liver is full of fat—is that indeed what they are saying? Does it mean you are overweight? Not necessarily.
Liver biopsies taken from patients diagnosed with fatty liver often reveal fat droplets within the cells when viewed under the microscope; hence, the term “fatty liver.” It is not a reflection of how overweight a person is. Although patients who are overweight have a higher risk of fatty liver, not all patients with fatty liver are overweight; and not all overweight patients have fatty liver.
Patients who are most at risk for fatty liver are those with the following medical conditions (almost all of which I've previously discussed in prior episodes that you may find useful to check out):
- Diabetes Type II
- Elevated cholesterol
- Metabolic syndrome
- PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome)
- Sleep Apnea
- Medication side effects: amiodarone, tamoxifen, steroids, estrogen
Patients with fatty liver often don’t even know it, as it is typically is silent and asymptomatic.