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Fatty Liver and Stroke Awareness

New research linking fatty liver disease with stroke ups the ante for educating the public in swift stroke recognition. February is American Heart Month.

New research claims that those with a fatty liver are more likely to have a stroke than those without a fatty liver. The number one cause of adult disability and the third leading cause of death in the United States, strokes are nothing to laugh at. Because swift treatment could make the difference between surviving a stroke and dying from one, knowing the warning signs of a stroke should be known by everyone – especially those with fatty liver disease.

About Fatty Liver Disease
Experts estimate that fatty liver disease affects up to a quarter of American adults. In those who do not consume excessive amounts of alcohol, fatty liver disease is known as nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). When fat accumulates in the liver, its severity can vary – from simple fatty liver (steatosis), to nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), to cirrhosis (irreversible, advanced scarring of the liver). Each fatty liver stage implies the accumulation of fat in the liver cells; however, NASH also involves inflammation and scarring of the liver.

Despite some fatigue or a dull pain in the upper right abdomen, the early stages of fatty liver disease generally do not produce any symptoms. This is unfortunate because, if fatty liver disease is detected early enough, it is can be reversed. However, if not addressed swiftly, fatty liver disease could cause irreparable liver harm. Risk factors for nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, include obesity, high cholesterol, diabetes and insulin resistance.

About a Stroke
A stroke describes the sudden loss of blood circulation to an area of the brain, resulting in a lack of oxygen that suddenly kills brain cells. Sometimes referred to as a brain attack or cerebrovascular accident (CVA), stroke can have a variety of causes, including thrombosis, embolism and hemorrhage.

In general, strokes are classified as either hemorrhagic or ischemic:

·    Acute Ischemic Stroke – Caused by thrombosis or embolism (a blood clot that breaks free, lodges in and blocks a blood vessel), ischemic stroke is more common than hemorrhagic stroke.

·    Hemorrhagic Stroke – Commonly referred to as a major stroke, a hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel ruptures and bleeds deep in the brain or on the surface of the brain.

A stroke affects the brain much in the same way a heart attack impacts the heart. Every stroke is different and is largely dependent upon the area of the brain affected and the length of time that area was without oxygen. Nonetheless, identifying one as soon as possible makes a big difference in the stroke’s outcome. There is just a three-hour window where physicians can administer clot-busting drugs that diminish the effects of a stroke, thus prompt identification and treatment is crucial. Quick medical treatment for a stroke can shield the brain from extensive damage, which can spare death or serious disabilities, such as paralysis, speech impairment and dementia.

Risks for a Stroke
Although anybody can have a stroke at any time, those at high risk are advised to educate themselves on stroke’s warning signs. The major known stroke risks, include:

·    Being over 55 years old, male or being of African American descent

·    Having a history of transient ischemic attacks (mini strokes) or having a family member who has suffered a stroke

·    Smoking cigarettes

·    Being obese, having high blood pressure or high cholesterol

·    Having diabetes, heart disease, peripheral artery disease or deep vein thrombosis

New research from Canada also demonstrates nonalcoholic fatty liver disease to be a stroke risk factor. As published in a January 2011 edition of the journal Epidemiology, researchers at the London Health Sciences Centre in London, Ontario found that people suffering from fatty liver disease appear to be three times more likely to suffer a stroke than individuals without a fatty liver.

Stroke Detection
Every 45 seconds, someone in the United States has a stroke. For the 25 percent of American adults with fatty liver disease, it is important to be aware of the early signs of stroke so they can get immediate help. A stroke can be recognized by any of the following 10 signs, with the first three signs automatically indicating a stroke and the subsequent seven potentially pointing to one:

1.    Crooked Smile – One side of the mouth doesn’t move well or appears to droop when smiling

2.    Arm Drift – With eyes closed and the arms held straight out in front for approximately 10 seconds, one arm does not move, or one arm drifts down more than the other

3.    Slurred Speech – When attempting to repeat a simple sentence, the words are slurred, incorrect or don’t come at all

4.    Sudden Weakness – Sudden weakness in an arm, hand or leg

5.    Numbness – The inability to feel one side of the face or body

6.    Sudden Blindness – The sudden inability to see out of one eye

7.    Trouble Walking – Sudden difficulty walking

8.    Does Not Comprehend – The inability to understand what someone is saying

9.    Vertigo – Feelings of dizziness or loss of balance

10.    Headache – Having the worst headache ever

If a stroke is suspected, emergency help should be sought immediately so that an ischemic stroke can be treated within that crucial three-hour window.

Because new research suggests that those with fatty liver disease are three times more likely to have a stroke than those with a healthy liver, affected individuals are encouraged to memorize the stroke warning signs – especially a crooked smile, arm drift and slurred speech. Until more is known about how to prevent fatty liver disease and stroke, people must be made aware of the association between these two health conditions and the urgency in quickly recognizing a cerebrovascular accident.

References:

http://journals.lww.com/epidem/Fulltext/2011/01000/Nonalcoholic_Fatty_Liver_Disease_and_Acute.24.aspx, Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease and Acute Ischemic Stroke, Ying, Ivan, et al, Retrieved January 10, 2011, Epidemiology, January 2011.

http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/793904-overview, Stroke, Ischemic, Joseph U. Becker, MD, Retrieved January 12, 2011, Medscape, 2011.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/life-style/health-fitness/health/Liver-disease-patients-likely-to-suffer-stroke/articleshow/7240894.cms, Liver disease patients likely to suffer stroke, Retrieved January 10, 2011, Bennett, Coleman & Co., Ltd., 2011.

http://www.integrative-healthcare.org/mt/archives/2010/01/would_you_know.html, Would You Know If Your Client Is About to Stroke?, Nicole Cutler, L.Ac., Retrieved January 10, 2011, Natural Wellness, 2011.

http://www.medicinenet.com/fatty_liver/article.htm, Fatty Liver: Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) and Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis (NASH), Michel Mendler, MD, Retrieved January 13, 2011, MedicineNet, Inc., 2011.

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