DOCTOR CALLING: Love your liver

Keeping fit and healthy can help you fight liver disease.
Keeping fit and healthy can help you fight liver disease.
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As a busy GP, I’ve seen a rise in recent years in the number of patients with liver disease, writes Miles Langdon

However, I was still taken aback by figures reported in the national media recently that the number of people dying of liver disease has soared by 450 per cent in 30 years.

Reports said that liver disease deaths have risen by 12 per cent in the last three years alone and, if this trend continues, deaths are expected to double in the next 20 years. Twice as many people now die from liver disease as in 1991, and liver disease is the fifth biggest killer in England and Wales after heart disease, cancer, strokes and respiratory disease.

What is more, liver disease is the only major cause of death that is increasing year on year.

Alcohol and bad diet are largely to blame for this alarming rise.

Yet the liver is a remarkably durable organ that can return to normal in as little as 24 hours – as long as no lasting damage has been done. There are three simple steps that people can take to knock their livers back into shape quickly:

* Keep off alcohol for two or three days in a row

* Take more exercise and stay fit

* Cut down on sugar and fat

Not drinking for two to three days running gives the liver time to recover.

Eating well and exercising regularly will prevent people getting overweight and developing non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Cutting down on daily food treats and not overloading on sugary drinks will help improve liver function.

On top of that, I would urge people feeling constantly tired to visit their GP and request a liver function test, especially if they have been pushing the boundaries regularly with alcohol or fatty foods.

And as jaundice can indicate liver damage, anyone noticing yellowing of their eyes or skin should visit their GP straightaway.

Prevention is better than cure, for patients and the NHS.

That’s why I’m calling on people to look after their livers and stay healthy for a long and happy life.

The extent to which alcohol has become a problem in society is illustrated by the fact that the number of deaths from alcohol-related liver disease in England and Wales rose by 41 per cent between 1999 and 2005 while hospital admissions for alcohol-related disease increased by 71 per cent between 2002-03 and 2006-07.

The cost to the NHS of alcohol misuse is around £2.7bn a year. Meanwhile, nearly 61 per cent of adults in England are overweight, with 24 per cent of those obese.