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A NAFLD/NASH review by Jackie

Fighting A Fatty Liver As We Age

When people think of an unhealthy liver, they most often think the leading cause to be alcohol-related, but an even greater concern is Non-Alcoholic SteatoHepatitis (NASH), an abnormal accumulation of fat in the liver which can lead to cirrhosis. In the U.S. about 16.5 million people have NASH, with a majority of sufferers between the ages of 60 and 74 years old according to a 2018 report by the National Aids Treatment Advocacy Project. On the bright side, a fatty liver is a reversible condition at any age that can be managed and minimized by concentrating on healthy diet and lifestyle changes

Recognizing A Fatty Liver

Non-Alcoholic SteatoHepatitis occurs in every age group but is most prevalent in seniors who are more prone to obesity and type 2 diabetes, both leading causes of NASH. An annual blood test is the simplest way to detect a fatty liver along with physical warning signs that include a swollen belly, red palms, a yellowish hue to the skin or eyes and larger than normal breasts in men. Whether the senior with NASH still resides at home or is being cared for in an assisted living facility, there are diets and programs that caregivers or family members can oversee to reduce the liver's size and prevent further damage.


Putting A Fatty Liver On A Diet

There is little evidence that any drug is effective in slowing the progression of NASH, so instead it is recommended to start healthy maintenance by cutting out liver-harming substances like alcohol and potentially toxic medications like Tylenol and cold remedies that contain acetaminophen. Losing weight is a great idea for seniors for a multitude of health-related reasons, but specific to the liver, dropping pounds has been shown to improve abnormal liver tests. In addition, light to moderate aerobic exercise also leads to decreased liver fat and, of course, will also spur overall weight loss.

Healthy Foods To Feed A Fatty Liver

Seniors fighting fatty liver buildup are best served focusing on the basic menu of the Mediterranean diet that features fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and fish or poultry instead of red meat. In addition, minimizing sugars and trans-saturated fats found in processed foods like hot dogs while also substituting olive oil for butter when cooking will help speed the healthy process. Some studies also show that people who drink a cup or two of black coffee every day also had a decreased risk of fibrosis, or scar tissue in the liver, often resulting from fatty buildups. 

The presence of NASH for seniors is most prevalent in those prone to obesity or type 2 diabetes and, if ignored, can be dangerous and even deadly. Recognizing the early warning signs of a fatty liver through blood tests or specific physical symptoms can help successfully battle that bulging organ through diet and exercise. Common sense and a healthy lifestyle will help minimize liver-related issues as seniors age promoting health and happiness in those precious Golden Years.