Liver Disease and Heart Disease: It’s A Two-Way Street

fatty liver diseaseNonalchoholic fatty liver disease is a risk factor for the development of heart disease, and vice versa.

This is the conclusion of a study published in the Journal of Hepatology that investigated the link between nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and heart disease. Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is a chronic liver disease that occurs in people who do not drink alcohol. The disease is characterized by the storage of large amounts of fat in liver cells, which do not allow liver cells to function properly. A similar type of liver disease is seen in people who drink alcohol.

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease affects 20-30% of the U.S. population. That number is growing due to the increase in obesity, a primary risk factor for both fatty liver disease and heart disease.

In this study, researchers followed 1,051 participants in the Framingham Heart Study for six years. The average age of participants at the beginning of the study ranged from 39 to 51 years. The researchers conducted diagnostic imaging on the liver to determine the amount of liver fat in each participant. They tracked the incidence of fatty liver disease and cardiovascular risk factors to determine:

a) if the amount of liver fat predicted the development of cardiovascular risk factors, and/or
b) if cardiovascular risk factors predicted the development of fatty liver disease.

The researchers found that patients with type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure or high triglyceride levels were more likely to develop nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Similarly, more patients with fatty liver disease developed cardiovascular disease. These results show a distinct link between the development of both heart disease and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease can increase your risk of heart disease, which remains the leading cause of death in the United States. The researchers highlight the need for prevention and better treatment of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease in order to improve the heart health of all patients. The health of your heart—and your liver—can be improved through lifestyle changes and developing healthy habits.

Here are some tips to get started:

Remember—your health is in your hands. A healthy heart—and liver—depend on you!

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