Death and disability from liver disease is increasing and by the time you have any symptoms it is often too late. Dr Khaleel Jamil, Gastroenterologist and Hepatologist at The Montefiore Hospital in Hove, says it’s time to take action for our own health’s sake.
He said: “More than 90 per cent of all liver disease is preventable, but sadly three quarters of people are diagnosed in hospital when they already have cirrhosis, that is, scarring of the liver which can lead to liver failure.
“The biggest contributor is alcohol – four out of five deaths from liver disease are alcohol-related.
“You don’t have to be an alcoholic to risk damaging your health by drinking.
“Regularly drinking over the recommended levels can be harmful.
“The Brighton and Hove area is a hot spot for liver disease.
“The number of male deaths in the city from chronic liver disease is double the England average.
“But alcohol consumption is not the only contributor. Obesity is also a key factor.
“Around 25 per cent to 40 per cent of obese people have a fatty liver which, if left unchecked, can lead to liver failure.
“Fatty liver is also a harbinger for other life-threatening illnesses such as cardiovascular disease.
“The problem is two-fold – firstly, there is no national liver screening programme, unlike that for bowel or breast cancer.
“And secondly, liver disease has no symptoms in the early stages.
“By the time you get symptoms, such as jaundice and a fluid-filled tummy, it can be too late as the liver is in an advanced stage of damage.
“The good news though is liver disease caused by alcohol or obesity can be reversed with a change in lifestyle, if it hasn’t got too advanced.
“And even in advanced liver disease, there is good evidence to show that a change in lifestyle will improve liver function.”
How to help your liver:
- Aim to drink less than 14 units of alcohol a week and ensure you have three alcohol-free days.
- Limit the amount of processed foods, fat and sugar you are eating, and instead focus on fresh produce and lean meat. Even losing 10% of your total bodyweight has been shown to improve liver health.
- Take regular exercise – working out helps to reduce the amount of carbohydrates stored in the liver and so reducing fat.
- If you’re struggling to reduce your alcohol consumption, your GP or local addicition services can prescribe pharmaceutical drugs that can help with alcohol addiction
Dr Khaleel Jamil has introduced a liver screening service at The Montefiore Hospital in Hove on Wednesday afternoons. This includes blood tests and an ultra sound scan. For more information, visit www.themontefiorehospital.co.uk or telephone 01273 828 148.