Men are at risk for liver disease: how can you prevent it?

The liver is an amazing (and essential) organ — it’s critical to help digest food and get rid of toxic substances, and it is unique in its ability to regenerate when damaged. But that doesn’t mean you can (or should) abuse your liver – liver disease is real, and twice as many men as women are at risk of dying from cirrhosis of the liver.

What should you know about liver disease? It can be genetic and inherited from family members or result from other factors, namely certain unhealthy or harmful lifestyle choices, such as alcohol abuse or obesity. Liver disease can also result from harmful viruses. When liver disease is left untreated, it can lead to cirrhosis, which means the liver is scarred and at risk of failing. Liver failure is life threatening. Want to learn more about how you can stay healthy? Continue reading.

What is liver disease?

Your liver is the second largest organ in your body, not including your skin. It is located under your right rib cage and is similar in weight to a soccer ball. So what does your liver do? It removes waste from food as part of the digestion process. Your liver also produces a substance called bile which removes toxins from your body.

Liver disease means something is wrong and your liver is not able to do its job effectively. This can be the result of many conditions and is cause for concern. Once you have developed cirrhosis of the liver, it means your liver is scarred. When too much scar tissue replaces healthy tissue, your liver can no longer function properly. If left untreated, it can get worse and lead to liver failure or cancer.

Although liver failure can be life-threatening, early detection and treatment can result in a complete cure.

How does liver disease affect men?

Men suffer and die from liver cirrhosis twice as often as women. According scientific studies in 2017, cirrhosis caused more than 1.3 million deaths worldwide. Nearly two-thirds of those deaths were men. Most of the men in these studies contracted hepatitis B, a disease that causes severe liver damage. The second leading cause of liver failure was the result of alcohol abuse.

Many doctors warn their male patients about the dangers of hepatitis B and excessive alcohol consumption. Although studies show that no level of alcohol consumption is considered “safe”, it remains difficult to convince occasional drinkers and heavy drinkers to quit. Those who work in medicine point to five main causes of cirrhosis of the liver:

Researchers have determined that the number of men with advanced non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is now double the number in 1990. Those with chronic cirrhosis of the liver have increased from about 4.4 million to 10.3 million . If it’s alcohol-free, that means drinking too much isn’t the problem.

So what’s the problem ?

Very probably, this means patients weigh too much. They’re probably obese, and unfortunately, it’s only getting worse. Thanks to an addiction to processed foods and a sedentary lifestyle, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is fast becoming the leading cause of cirrhosis of the liver. The bad news is that obesity is moving from a serious public health issue to an alarming problem that needs to be tackled. The good news is that liver disease and the deaths from it can be prevented with precautionary measures and lifestyle changes.

What are the signs that you might have liver disease?

Unfortunately, some forms of liver disease usually do not cause noticeable symptoms. This is true for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and may require special tests to confirm. However, if you start to notice any of the following signs, you need to see a doctor for early treatment to make a full recovery. Some common signs of liver disease include:

  • Jaundice – when your liver cannot get rid of bilirubin, then your skin and eyes turn yellowish
  • Pain in the belly – especially on the right side of the abdomen
  • bruises easily
  • Urine and/or discolored stools
  • Lethargy
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Swollen arms, belly and/or legs
  • Itchy skin
  • Fatigue
  • Exhaustion
  • Loss of appetite

6 preventive measures you can take

1. Avoid risks

Make a concerted effort to limit risks on a daily basis. This will help you prevent hepatitis A, B or C. For example, using a condom will reduce your risk. If you get a tattoo, make sure the tattoo artist meets national or local health and safety standards. Make sure they open a clean needle in front of you.

Get the help you need to lose weight, limit your alcohol intake and get clean. Do not share needles with anyone if you are still using intravenous drugs. Again, this will help you avoid getting hepatitis and other illnesses.

If you regularly come into contact with toxic chemicals, use them only in well-ventilated areas and wear a mask. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Do you travel often? When visiting developing countries, use bottled water. This is important when drinking, washing your hands and brushing your teeth.

2. Limit alcohol consumption

Doctors will tell you that there is no safe level of alcohol consumption. However, if moderate alcohol consumption is part of your lifestyle, you may need a more realistic guideline. For healthy adult men, this means limiting yourself to two drinks a day or less. What does it mean to be a heavy drinker or a high-risk drinker? This is generally defined as more than 15 drinks per week for men.

3. Exercise regularly

Obesity is the main cause of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Develop a regular exercise routine and maintaining a healthy weight not only reduces the risk of liver problems, but will also reduce the risk of many other diseases and conditions. Do at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity each week. You should also set aside two days of muscle-building activity.

4. Get vaccinated

Safe and effective vaccinations can help you avoid liver disease, especially if your lifestyle puts you at high risk. Discuss hepatitis A and B vaccines with your doctor.

5. Follow Medication Instructions

Common medications like acetaminophen (Tylenol) are too often a cause of liver damage. When taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, do so only when needed. Follow the recommended dosage and do not mix them with alcohol. If you take herbal supplements, be sure to alert your doctor and ask if they are used together. When you carefully manage prescription and over-the-counter medications, it will help you avoid liver damage.

6. Eat healthy foods

Have a balanced diet, mostly plant-based foods, can boost your immune system and keep you at an appropriate weight. If you buy fresh fruits and vegetables, be sure to wash them before eating them. This is especially true if they are sprayed with insecticides. Make sure the chemicals are not absorbed through your skin. Before eating or preparing meals, wash your hands thoroughly. Avoid foods and drinks high in trans fats or high fructose corn syrup.

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