Early testing, healthy lifestyle could prevent liver disease

2 April 2013

Liver disease is the UK’s fifth leading cause of death, and it’s claiming more lives than ever. The latest statistics show the mortality rate of this condition has risen 20 per cent over the past ten years.

Binge drinking is a common cause of liver disease, hence the NHS’ campaign launched earlier this year to warn against excessive alcohol consumption. British Liver Trust is asking the NHS to do more on this front by offering early scanning for liver disease.

Although there has been a long-term downward trend in alcohol consumption and binge drinking in the UK, liver disease is becoming more problematic and prevalent. Obesity and sedentary lifestyles could the reason behind the increase.

The Daily Mail conducted its own health research on this matter by testing six individuals with FibroScan, an instrument used to measure the stiffness of the liver (an indication of organ scarring). An obese, middle-aged man who hardly drank at all was found to have the worst scarring. This is compared to a binge-drinker, a middle-aged woman who consumed 40 units per week, and a 33-year-old man who gave up a 20-pints-per-night habit. Obesity clearly has a damaging effect on the liver, as it causes a buildup of fat to accumulate in the organ, resulting in cirrhosis, or scarring.

Chief medical officer Prof Dame Sally Davies is appalled by the high death rate of liver disease, a preventable condition.  She said: "This is the only major cause of preventative death that is on the increase in England that is generally falling in other comparable European nations. We must act to change this.”

Early scanning is currently not offered the NHS. Liver testing is available through private healthcare to help diagnose cirrhosis before it results in liver disease or failure.

Posted by Philip Briggs

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