Learn about the 3 most common liver diseases, including nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), and helpful ways you can protect your liver.
Unfortunately, for roughly one in 10 Americans, their liver function is negatively affected due to the development of some type of disease. (1) Here are the most common liver diseases in existence today, along with a few things you can do to help protect yourself from developing them.
Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD)
In NAFLD, the liver accumulates excess fat. This prevents healthy liver function and, over time, can also cause liver injury. As its name suggests, this common liver disease can occur without engaging in any level of alcohol intake.
• Carrying excess weight
• Having high triglyceride or low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels
• Having high blood pressure
• Having prediabetes or diabetes
How to Protect Your Liver From NAFLD, The Most Common Liver Disease
Based on these risk factors, one of the best ways to protect yourself from NAFLD is to live a healthy lifestyle that includes eating nutritious foods and getting regular exercise. This can help keep your weight within a healthy range while also making it easier to achieve and maintain healthy cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels.
If you’ve tried to reduce your cholesterol, blood pressure, or blood sugar levels without any success, talk to your healthcare provider. They can help identify the root cause of your issue, and also work with you to find the best treatment plan for your health status and condition.
Alcoholic Liver Disease, The Second Most Common Liver Disease
While you can develop NAFLD without ever drinking an ounce of alcohol, certain forms of liver disease occur most often in people with severe alcohol use disorder. These are called alcoholic liver diseases and refer to a spectrum of conditions associated with excessive alcohol use, including alcoholic hepatitis and cirrhosis. (4)
Protecting Your Liver From Alcoholic Liver Disease
Since chronic alcohol misuse is the most common contributor to alcoholic liver diseases, avoiding drinks that contain alcohol is one way to protect against these conditions.
Choose coffee and green tea instead as both of these beverages can help enhance liver health.
If alcohol misuse is an issue for you or you’ve tried to quit drinking but couldn’t, seeking professional help is recommended. Stopping drinking cold turkey can be dangerous for long-term chronic drinkers, potentially leading to alcohol withdrawal symptoms such as seizures, hallucinations, abnormal heart rhythms, and possibly even death. (5)
Your healthcare provider can help avoid these issues, helping you detoxify from alcohol safely and more comfortably.
Hepatitis C refers to a viral infection that causes the liver to become inflamed. According to one 2020 study, this condition affects more than 2 million adult Americans. If untreated, hepatitis C can lead to major liver damage—and is even listed as one of the leading causes of liver-related death. (6)
The hepatitis C virus is spread through contact with infected blood, with most people contracting this common liver disease by sharing needles or other drug paraphernalia with other users. (7)
One Way You Can Protect Yourself From Hepatitis C, Another Common Liver Disease
Not sharing these types of devices is a good first step to protecting yourself from hepatitis C as this prevents you from coming into contact with contaminated blood.
If you do continue to share needles or other drug paraphernalia, make it a point to get tested for hepatitis C regularly. If you catch the disease in its earlier stages, you can likely cure it successfully within 8 to 12 weeks with the right treatment. (7)
The Bottom Line in Protecting Your Liver
Living a healthy lifestyle, not consuming alcohol in excess, and avoiding sharing drug paraphernalia with others can help protect you from some of the most common liver diseases today. If you’re looking for extra support, try a preventive measure like taking a liver support supplement.
(1) Cleveland Clinic. (2021, November 23). Liver Disease. Retrieved September 08, 2022, from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/17179-liver-disease
(2) Cotter, T., Rinella, M. (2020, May). Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease 2020: The State of the Disease. Gastroenterology. doi: https://doi.org/10.1053/j.gastro.2020.01.052
(3) Johns Hopkins Medicine. (n.d.). Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Retrieved September 19, 2022, from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/nonalcoholic-fatty-liver-disease
(4) Sharma, A., Nagalli, S. (2022, July 4). Chronic Liver Disease. StatPearls [Internet]. Retrieved September 19, 2022, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK554597/
(5) Mount Sinai. (n.d.). Alcohol withdrawal. Retrieved September 19, 2022, from https://www.mountsinai.org/health-library/diseases-conditions/alcohol-withdrawal
(6) Bradley, H., Hall, E., Rosenthal, E., Sullivan, P., Ryerson., A., Rosenberg, E. (2020, January 14, 2020). Hepatitis C Virus Prevalence in 50 U.S. States and D.C. by Sex, Birth Cohort, and Race: 2013-2016. Hepatology Communications. doi: https://doi.org/10.1002/hep4.1457
(7) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, July 28). Viral Hepatitis: Hepatitis C Information. Retrieved September 19, 2022, from https://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/hcv/index.htm