The research analysed data of deaths in England and Wales and found that in 2017, 998 men and women aged between 35 and 49 died from liver disease, 10 per cent of all deaths in this age group. The report also states that liver disease is expected to overtake heart disease as the biggest cause of premature death in the next few years.
Furthermore, liver cancer has increased by almost two-thirds (63 per cent) in the UK in the past decade, and it’s estimated that 1 in 3 people have NAFLD, early-stage non-alcohol related fatty liver disease. It's likely that 20per cent of these will develop the more serious form which can lead to cirrhosis.
'We are facing a liver disease epidemic in the UK,' said Pamela Healy, Chief Executive of British Liver Trust. 'Helping people understand how to reduce their risk of liver damage is vital to address the increase in deaths from liver disease. Although the liver is remarkably resilient, if left too late damage is often irreversible. I would urge everyone to take our online screener on our website to see if they are at risk.'
More than 90 per cent of liver disease is due to three main risk factors: alcohol, obesity and viral hepatitis. Research has also found that those who live in more deprived areas are up to six times more likely to die from alcohol-related liver disease than those who live in wealthier areas.
How to reduce your risk of liver disease
In order to reduce your chances of developing liver disease, follow these lifestyle tips:
• Reduce alcohol consumption
It's recommended that you drink within the recommended limits and have at least three consecutive alcohol-free days a week.
'It is very important for all individuals to understand their units,' says Professor Heneghan, Consultant Hepatologist from The London Liver Centre at London Bridge Hospital. 'For men and women, 14 units of alcohol per week is the recommended alcohol intake. This equates to 14 units of spirits, or 14 small glasses of wine ideally divided over the week rather than drunk at any one sitting. '
• Maintain a healthy weight
Eating a balanced diet and regular exercise can hep you reduce your risk of fatty liver disease. 'Eating excess calories causes fat to build up in the liver and when the liver does not process and break down fats as it normally should, too much develops in the liver,' explains Dr Roger Henderson.
• Know the risk factors for hepatitis
It's important to understand what can cause viral hepatitis - ie liver inflammation- and get tested if at risk. Common causes of hepatitis include:
- Other viral diseases, such as glandular fever and cytomegalovirus
- Severe bacterial infections
- Medicines, eg paracetamol poisoning and halothane (an anaesthetic)
- Toxins: alcohol and fungal toxins, such as toadstool poisoning
- Drug reactions
Hep A, B and C vaccinations are available. If you think you could be at risk of hepatitis, contact your GP or call 111.
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