For years, heart disease has remained the number one killer of men and women. But by the year 2020, heart disease may be overtaken by another disease that is on the rise. That disease is liver disease, and as drinking habits worsen and obesity rates continue to rise, so do premature deaths caused by liver disease.
The findings were published in the Lancet Medical Journal. The researchers calculated the number of working years lost as a result of liver disease and heart disease and found that liver disease will claim around 80,000 lives where heart disease will take 76,000. Furthermore, these deaths are seen to be premature, with many patients being middle-aged.
Researcher Professor Nick Sheron explained, “These are young and middle-aged people. I did a ward round two to three weeks ago and a third of patients were under 40.”
Countries like Scotland are putting policies in place in order to curb drinking habits by charging minimum 50p per unit.
Executive of British Liver Trust, Judi Rhys, explained, “There is an enormous cost benefit to addressing liver disease early and we should make sure that primary care practitioners have all of the tools and levers they need to enable early diagnosis and prevention.”
Your liver is responsible for over 500 functions in the body, so when it becomes sick, your health can start to decline. Furthermore, liver disease can go undetected for many years because it is often symptomless. Additionally, because the liver plays such a large role in overall health, symptoms may present themselves elsewhere, which causes the liver to be overlooked.
Delaying the diagnosis can put your liver at a higher risk for irreversible damage that treatment cannot help and a transplant may be required.
Many factors contributing to liver disease can be prevented, which means it does not have to be an inevitable part of aging. This includes reducing your alcohol intake, eating a healthy diet low in unhealthy fats, maintaining a healthy weight and reversing obesity, regular exercise, and not smoking. These risk factors will also go a long way in preventing heart disease, too, so you can live a long life with a healthy liver and heart.