The best way to fight liver disease is to avoid it, if at all possible. As we observe Liver Awareness Month in 2013, here are 13 ways to achieve liver wellness. Appropriately, that’s one useful tip for each year of the new century!
1. Maintain a healthy weight. If you’re obese or even somewhat overweight, you’re in danger of having a fatty liver that can lead to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), one of the fastest growing forms of liver disease. Weight loss can play an important part in helping to reduce liver fat.
2. Eat a balanced diet.
3. Exercise regularly. When you exercise consistently, it helps to burn triglycerides for fuel and can also reduce liver fat.
4. Avoid toxins. Toxins can injure liver cells. Limit direct contact with toxins from cleaning and aerosol products, insecticides, chemicals, and additives. When you do use aerosols, make sure the room is ventilated, and wear a mask. Don’t smoke.
5. Use alcohol responsibly. Alcoholic beverages can create many health problems. They can damage or destroy liver cells and scar your liver. Talk to your doctor about what amount of alcohol is right for you. You may be advised to drink alcohol only in moderation or to quit completely.
6. Avoid the use of illicit drugs. In 2012, nearly 24 million Americans aged 12 or older were current illicit drug users, meaning they had used an illicit drug during the month prior to the survey interview. This estimate represents 9.2 percent of the population aged 12 or older. Illicit drugs include marijuana/hashish, cocaine (including crack), heroin, hallucinogens, inhalants, or prescription-type psychotherapeutics (pain relievers, tranquilizers, stimulants, and sedatives) used non-medically.
7. Avoid contaminated needles. Of course, dirty needles aren’t only associated with intravenous drug use. You ought to follow up with a medical practitioner and seek testing following any type of skin penetration involving sharp instruments or needles. Unsafe injection practices, though rare, may occur in a hospital setting, and would need immediate follow-up. Also, use only clean needles for tattoos and body piercings.
8. Get medical care if you’re exposed to blood. If for any reason you come into contact with someone else’s blood, immediately follow up with your doctor. If you’re very concerned, go to your nearest hospital’s emergency room.
9. Don’t share personal hygiene items. For example, razors, toothbrushes and nail clippers can carry microscopic levels of blood or other body fluids that may be contaminated.
10. Practice safe sex. Unprotected sex or sex with multiple partners increases your risk of hepatitis B and hepatitis C.
11. Wash your hands. Use soap and warm water immediately after using the bathroom, when you have changed a diaper, and before preparing or eating food.
12. Follow directions on all medications. When medicines are taken incorrectly by taking too much, the wrong type or by mixing medicines, your liver can be harmed. Never mix alcohol with other drugs and medications even if they’re not taken at the same time. Tell your doctor about any over-the-counter medicines, supplements, and natural or herbal remedies that you use.
13. Get vaccinated. There are vaccines for hepatitis A and hepatitis B. Unfortunately, there’s no vaccine against the hepatitis C virus.
[Source for #6: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Results from the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Summary of National Findings, NSDUH Series H-46, HHS Publication No. (SMA) 13-4795. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2013, p. 1.]