It’s your liver’s job to filter toxins, such as alcohol, out of your blood. Alcohol is metabolised in the liver and used to generate fat. If you regularly drink more than the recommended guidelines, your liver will quickly become fatty. The liver cells become bloated and unable to work properly. Nearly all heavy drinkers are thought to have alcoholic fatty liver disease.
Liver disease has been long associated with excessive drinking and over time, a build-up of fat caused by alcohol can harm your liver. In around one-quarter of people, the fat causes inflammation – known as alcoholic hepatitis – and in around one in five this can lead to serious scarring, known as cirrhosis. In some cases, alcoholic hepatitis can occur suddenly if large amounts of alcohol are consumed in a short space of time, as your liver is unable to cope. Where scarring occurs, the liver will start to lose function. Even at this stage you may not notice any symptoms. Stopping drinking immediately and continuing to abstain will prevent any further damage. However, if damage from alcohol continues your liver will start to fail.
Is junk food the new booze?
Even if you don’t drink you can still be at risk, not of alcoholic hepatitis but of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), a condition where the liver becomes very fatty. You are most at risk of getting NAFLD if you are obese or have diabetes. Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) refers to a progression of fatty liver disease where inflammation and scarring occurs, which can lead to cirrhosis. Cirrhosis due to NASH is increasingly being associated with the development of liver cancer and the need for liver transplant. There have been many high profile cases of liver disease from alcohol, such as the footballer George Best, but many people are still unaware of the risks from obesity.
A growing problem
A recent report shows that alcohol abuse and obesity are to blame for a big rise in liver disease in the North West. The North West Public Health Observatory found that the number of men dying from liver disease had risen by 20% since 2005. The liver disease death rate in the region is 42% higher than the national average.
Professor of Public Health Mark Bellis said it “paints a very poor picture” of the region’s liver health. In deaths resulting from liver disease, the figures show alcohol was the cause of 47% of fatalities in men and 43% in women. Liver disease affected more people living in deprived areas.
According to the findings, there was a 182% rise in hospital admissions due to fatty liver disease as a primary or secondary diagnosis. The numbers of men dying from liver disease each year rose from 27 per 100,000 population in 2005 to 30.9 per 100,000 population in 2010 and deaths occur at a relatively young age with the peak ages in the 55 to 64 year age group.
The figures for deaths among women have remained fairly constant over the same period.
Professor Bellis from Liverpool John Moores University, who worked on the study, said: “What this really shows us particularly in males is a quite substantial rise in the number of people dying over last five years of liver disease… and being admitted to hospital and this is mainly due to alcohol and obesity and other underlying problems which are getting worse.”
The number of liver disease deaths among women has remained the same according to the study since 2005.
The report was conducted in collaboration with the National Treatment Agency North West, North West Cancer Intelligence Service and NHS North West.
Liver disease currently accounts for 2% of all deaths in England.
Year Without Beer
Never mind the Olympics, 2012 is my Year Without Beer! I am spending all 366 days of this leap year alcohol free in an attempt to raise money for 2 charities that are both very close to my heart.
If giving up all alcohol for a year isn’t enough of a challenge to make you dig deep and show your support, I also plan to run 500 miles! As part of my running challenge I have completed a quarter marathon and am signed up for a 10 mile road race (Great South Run) and 8 mile off road challenge (The Grim Original).
If you want to show some love them please donate to my year without beer and give your support to one of these fantastic causes:
- To donate to Cancer Research UK please click here to visit my just giving page or donate by text – send AYWB66 and the amount to 70070. For example, texting “AYWB66 £5″ will donate £5.
- To donate to the Cystic Fibrosis Trust please click here to visit my just giving page or donate by text – send AYWB55 and the amount to 70070. For example, texting “AYWB55 £5″ will donate £5.