Researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University have conducted studies to determine a possible link between liver and heart health.
Liver disease is slowly becoming a common ailment in America, with the most common cause being a non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). NAFLD is caused by a fat build-up in and around the liver, which causes damage to the liver.
Lead researcher Mohammad Siddiqui explained, “Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is often missed in primary care, so by the time patients get the appropriate subspecialty referral, they have usually developed advanced stages of the disease. We are doing the research that informs eventual guidelines for the best evidence-based care.”
The researchers looked at patients suspected to have liver damage and who were referred to VCU to undergo a liver biopsy.
The study involved 35 participants with NAFLD but without heart failure. The patients received echocardiograms and stress echocardiograms, while the researchers monitored their heart function as they exercised on a treadmill.
This is the first study of its kind to include liver biopsies and exercise capacity assessments along with questionnaires. The questionnaires were beneficial in obtaining insight on how the patients felt.
The researchers found that patients with more aggressive liver disease had limited exercise capacity and as liver scarring progressed, their exercise capacity diminished.
The findings indicate that lack of exercise capacity increases a patient’s risk of heart failure, thus suggesting patients with liver disease are at a higher risk of a heart-related condition.
It’s essential that if a patient’s ability to exercise is limited as a result of poor liver function that they partake in other heart-healthy habits to reduce their risk of heart failure.
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