Are you getting enough exercise? Are you eating right? It’s easier said than done.
There’s a medical condition that affects a lot of people here in South Texas and some of the risk factors include being overweight, family history or not being active enough.
Clay Dehn, vice president of clinical pharmacology services at Endeavor Clinical Trials, explains how Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) is prevalent in the Hispanic community and provides insight on how to get a free screening.
What exactly this disease is and how it affects people?
“Fatty liver disease, as the name suggests, is a liver disease that is marked by having more than normal amounts of fat in the liver, and it occurs in people who don’t drink excessive amounts of alcohol,” said Dehn. “It’s driven by lifestyle, sedentary lifestyle, and our diets. It’s the way that it affects people. It’s really interesting because for a long time, it doesn’t affect people, it doesn’t cause symptoms or outward signs. People don’t feel bad when they have it. It’s very easy to ignore because it doesn’t cause symptoms or problems until the disease is really advanced. And at that point, it can lead to the development of cirrhosis, very much like alcohol. Alcoholic liver disease can and may require a liver transplant in order to treat the condition and very often can be fatal.”
Takeaway: Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease is a condition that is caused by having more fat than normal in the liver. It is not related to drinking alcohol, but important risk factors do include genetics, not following a healthy diet, being overweight, not being active enough, and having a personal or family history of Type 2 diabetes.
What types of people are affected by it and how many in our area are affected?
“It’s an incredibly common disease and is an enormous public health concern in the United States,” Dehn said. “About one in three people have fatty liver disease. In San Antonio, the number of people affected by it are even higher for a couple of reasons. We have a high incidence of diabetes in the area and we know that about 70% of people with diabetes have fatty liver disease as well. The two conditions are very related, but it also affects people of Hispanic origin more than it does other ethnicities. So there’s a and that’s due to genetics, something that we inherit from our parents. There’s a particular gene that we’ve identified that increases the risk of developing fatty liver disease.”
Takeaway: NAFLD/NASH is an epidemic that hits San Antonio particularly hard. This is, at least in part, because of the high rates of diabetes and the large Hispanic population in this area.
For example, out of a group of 1,600 San Antonians tested, 70% were positive for NAFLD. This is one of the most serious public health concerns of our time, and most San Antonio residents are at risk.
Are there screenings for it?
“Absolutely, if you feel like you’re at risk for fatty liver disease, if you have any of these underlying risk factors, diabetes, Hispanic background, even if you want to find out what genes you carry, we can perform that test and let you know if you have the gene that is so implicated in the development of fatty liver disease,” said Dehn. “And then there’s another test that we can run that works very much like an ultrasound. So it’s noninvasive. It’s not painful or anything like that. But we can do a scan of the liver to find out what type of damage may already be there. And we can assess the risk from those tests.”
Takeaway: It’s important to catch fatty liver disease in its early stages, as there are often no symptoms until it has progressed. Evolution Research Group offers free screenings.
To learn more about free screenings from Endeavor Clinical Trials, click or tap here.