Slim people with fatty liver disease, not overweight people, more likely to have heart disease

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Researchers at the University of Michigan have found a surprising link between non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and heart disease in people with a normal body mass index (BMI).

This research found that those with a normal BMI who have NAFLD are more likely to have cardiovascular disease than those who are overweight or living with obesity.

NAFLD is a term for various conditions of the liver that affect those who drink little to no alcohol.

It is characterized by having too much fat stored in liver cells and can lead to other dangerous conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cirrhosis of the liver.

While NAFLD is more common in people who are overweight or living with obesity, it is also found in people who have a normal BMI.

Unfortunately, there is little research on this population’s associated conditions in relation to NAFLD.

In this study, researchers analyzed more than 10,000 adults diagnosed with NAFLD at the University of Michigan Hospital from 2012 to 2021.

They compared the prevalence of cirrhosis, cardiovascular diseases, metabolic diseases, and chronic kidney disease among four classes of patients: lean (BMI= 18.5 to 24.9), overweight (BMI=25-29.9), class 1 obesity (BMI=30-34.9), and class 2-3 obesity (BMI=35-<40).

The researchers found that, compared to non-lean patients, lean patients had a lower prevalence of cirrhosis, diabetes, high blood pressure, and dyslipidemia, but a higher prevalence of peripheral vascular disease, brain-vascular disease, and any heart disease.

In further analysis, they found that lean patients with NAFLD also had a much higher prevalence of heart disease,

The team had expected to see that those with a normal BMI would have a lower prevalence of any metabolic or cardiovascular conditions, so they were very surprised to find this link to cardiovascular disease.

Given the unknown reasons behind the higher prevalence of cardiovascular diseases among lean patients with NAFLD, researchers encourage physicians not to overlook lean patients with NAFLD.

These people may be facing serious health consequences similar to patients who are overweight or living with obesity.

The researchers plan to conduct additional studies that will follow patients long-term to determine whether lean patients have a higher risk of developing cardiovascular diseases as a result of NAFLD.

How to prevent heart disease if you have NAFLD

If you have non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), it is important to take steps to prevent cardiovascular disease. Here are some tips to help you prevent heart disease:

Maintain a healthy weight: Being overweight or obese is a risk factor for both NAFLD and cardiovascular disease. Losing weight and maintaining a healthy weight can help reduce your risk of developing heart disease.

Follow a healthy diet: Eating a healthy diet is important for both NAFLD and heart health. Focus on eating a diet that is high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Limit your intake of saturated and trans fats, added sugars, and processed foods.

Get regular exercise: Exercise can help improve liver health and reduce your risk of heart disease. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week.

Manage your blood pressure and cholesterol: High blood pressure and cholesterol are both risk factors for heart disease. Work with your doctor to manage your blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Avoid smoking: Smoking is a major risk factor for heart disease. If you smoke, quit as soon as possible.

Manage other health conditions: If you have other health conditions such as diabetes, work with your doctor to manage them effectively. Poorly managed diabetes can increase your risk of heart disease.

Get regular check-ups: Regular check-ups with your doctor can help you stay on top of your health and identify any potential problems early on.

By following these tips, you can help reduce your risk of heart disease, even if you have NAFLD.

If you care about liver health, please read studies about dairy foods linked to liver cancer, and coffee drinkers may halve their risk of liver cancer.

For more information about heart health, please see recent studies about how to remove plaques that cause heart attacks, and results showing a new way to prevent heart attacks and strokes.

The study was conducted by Karn Wijarnpreecha et al.

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