New global research has identified that one in four people are unaware that they are living with liver disease.

A statement from the American Heart Association has reported that one in four cases of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) are currently undiagnosed. 

NAFLD is the term for a range of conditions caused by a build-up of fat in the liver, most commonly impacting people who are overweight or obese. The condition can sometimes result in scarring and inflammation.  

Lead author of the statement, P. Barton Duell said: “NAFLD is a common condition that is often hidden or missed in routine medical care.

“It is important to know about the condition and treat it early because it is a risk factor for chronic liver damage and cardiovascular disease.”

According to the statement, regular NAFLD monitoring and better access to improved treatments will help resolve cases of the disease going undetected. 

The statement has also identified that individuals with NAFLD are more at risk of developing cardiovascular disease compared to those without the condition. 

Both NAFLD and cardiovascular disease have similar risk factors, such as type 2 diabetes, prediabetes, obesity, high blood sugar, high blood pressure and increased abdominal fat. 

The statement has reported that regular exercise and a healthy diet can combat NAFLD. In addition, it revealed that genetics can trigger the condition. 

Duell said: “Although healthy living can help avert NAFLD in many individuals, some may develop the condition despite their best efforts. 

“At the other end of the spectrum, some individuals may have a genetic makeup that protects them from developing NAFLD despite having obesity, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, unhealthy dietary habits or being sedentary.”

During the initial development of NAFLD, people rarely experience symptoms of the condition, meaning thousands of cases are left undiagnosed. 

“The lack of awareness of the high prevalence of NAFLD contributes to underdiagnosis. Individuals with risk factors for NAFLD warrant more careful screening,” said Duell. 

The statement can now be accessed in the peer-reviewed journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology. 

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