World Liver Day is celebrated on April 19 to spread awareness about the importance of liver health and educate people on how to maintain a healthy liver.
Speaking to IANS Dr. Abhai Singh, Senior Consultant, Gastroenterologist, Primus Super Speciality Hospital, New Delhi, noted that “liver illness has spread like an epidemic in India, affecting one out of every five persons”.
“In India, liver-related fatalities have reached a startling 268,580 (3.17 per cent of all deaths) every year, accounting for 18.3 per cent of the global 2 million liver-related deaths making it the 11th leading cause of death globally.
“Alarmingly, liver cancer rates have tripled since the 1980s, with a projected 1.1 million deaths from liver cancer by 2030.
“Around 30-40 per cent of my outpatient department`s patients have liver issues. Each month, I attend to approximately 30-35 individuals with liver ailments, falling between the ages of 30-60,” Dr. Singh said.
Liver diseases are broadly caused by hepatitis viruses (A to E), alcohol, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), drugs, autoimmune and genetic diseases, cryptogenic and liver tumours – benign and malignant.
“The leading causes of these illnesses stem from consuming high amounts of junk food, high-fat diets, and sugary drinks,” Dr Singh said.
The incidence of alcoholic fatty liver disease (AFLD) is also growing in India due to steadily rising alcohol consumption, said Dr. (Brig) Atul Kumar Sood (retd), HOD & Director, Hepatic & Digestive Sciences, Sarvodaya Hospital, Faridabad.
AFLD develops when excess fat accumulates in the liver, can lead to liver inflammation, scarring, and even liver failure.
“Some people are more vulnerable to AFLD than others because of metabolic and genetic factors. Heavy drinkers are at the highest risk, while obese people or those with a high body mass index (BMI) are also susceptible. Those with diabetes face a higher risk of AFLD and, conversely, people with AFLD have a higher risk of developing diabetes,” said Dr Sood.
“The risk also rises as one becomes older. The poorly nourished people also are more vulnerable to liver damage. Moreover, women are at an increased risk of developing AFLD, as their bodies metabolise alcohol differently than men,” he added.
However, all these are preventable and manageable with lifestyle modifications, vaccination against hepatitis B, and early detection and treatment of hepatitis C. Liver transplantation also offers hope for those with end-stage liver disease.
The doctors suggested avoiding binge drinking and limiting alcohol consumption; avoiding foods that are high in fat, sugar, and salt, and eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein. They also recommended the need for regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight and reducing stress.
“To take care of your liver, you should maintain a healthy weight, eat a healthy and balanced diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins, limit alcohol consumption, avoid exposure to chemicals and pollutants that can damage your liver,” said Dr Shuchin Bajaj, Founder & Director Ujala Cygnus group of Hospitals.
“Vaccinations can help protect you from hepatitis A and B, which can cause liver damage. Exercise regularly as well as practise safe sex as Hepatitis B and C can be spread through unprotected sex. Use protection to reduce your risk,” he added.