Understanding Your Risks for Fatty Liver Disease

By: Renown Wellness Team

June 20, 2024

A senior citizen male receives care from a doctor.

Did you know that about one in four adults and one out of every ten kids in the U.S. might have a liver problem called non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)? This happens when too much fat builds up in the liver, and it's not because of drinking alcohol. The most serious type of this liver problem is called metabolic and non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (M/NASH). It means there's damage and can be scarring in the liver.

About 20% of people with fatty liver disease have M/NASH. What's worrying is that many people don't even know they have it. Dr. Catherine McCarthy, a family medicine doctor at the University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine, talks about the main risks of M/NASH and how you can check your risk for liver disease during Liver Health Matters Month, or anytime. 

Who Might Get M/NASH? 

Doctors aren't sure exactly why some people get fatty liver or M/NASH. While anyone can get M/NASH, people who might be more at risk include those with: 

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Insulin resistance or prediabetes
  • High body mass index (BMI) or obesity
  • High cholesterol or other fats in the blood
  • High blood pressure
  • Signs of liver problems from tests or biopsies
  • A family member living with M/NASH

How Do Doctors Find Out If You Have M/NASH?

Doctors can do different checks and tests to see if someone has fatty liver or M/NASH. They might look at your liver health through non-invasive tests such as blood work, ultrasounds or MRIs. They might also suggest a special blood test called an Enhanced Liver Fibrosis (ELF) test– offered at no-cost through the Healthy Nevada Project – to check your risks of advancing liver disease. 

How Can You Treat Fatty Liver Disease or M/NASH? 

Patients with moderate to advanced liver scarring may also be prescribed a recently approved therapy called Rezdiffra. However, prevention of advancing disease is still the best option. 

Actions you can take to improve your liver health and reduce your risk include:

  • Eating healthy, especially low-carb foods
  • Exercising regularly
  • Losing weight if needed
  • Not drinking alcohol
  • Keeping an eye on blood sugar if you have diabetes

No-Cost Liver Screening Through the Healthy Nevada Project 

If you live in Nevada and are 18 or older, you can qualify for a no-cost liver health screening by enrolling in the Healthy Nevada Project, one of the largest community-based population health studies in the entire country. This study helps doctors understand your liver health better and plan early treatments to stop liver disease from getting worse. 

By joining the Healthy Nevada Project, you can:

  • Get the FDA-approved ELF test to check your risks for liver disease
  • See your test results in your medical record to help your doctor plan your care better
  • Help doctors and researchers learn more about M/NASH and work on future treatments
  • Participate in genetic sequencing for high-risk conditions linked to heart disease and certain cancers, including breast and ovarian cancer
  • Gain high-level health insights, including food sensitivities, and ancestry information.

Enrolling in the study is easy:

  • Schedule a Virtual Consent Appointment through MyChart where a study representative will answer any questions, confirm your eligibility and sign you up.
  • Once you’re signed up, your representative will schedule your blood test.
  • Go to your blood draw appointment.

By taking part in this study, you're helping to make a difference in liver health research! 

A Proactive Approach to Health

Sunset at Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada, USA

A Proactive Approach to Health

The no-cost Healthy Nevada Project is an opportunity to learn about your ancestry, diet insights and genetic risks linked to heart disease and certain cancers.
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