Liver disease: NHS Doctor talks about link with alcohol
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The British Liver Trust is calling for immediate action after newly-released data has confirmed suspicions that more people in the UK are dying of alcohol-related liver disease since the pandemic began. The New ONS figures reveal 6,985 people died from alcohol-related liver disease in the UK in 2020, an increase of almost 20 percent from 2019 and over 80 percent from 2010.
Liver disease is the third leading cause of premature death in the UK, and the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the UK’s liver disease epidemic.
Alcohol consumption increased during the pandemic, with more people sitting at home with nothing to do and lots of anxiety and worry.
The first lockdown in March 2020 is where the problem started and supermarkets reported a surge in alcohol sales.
The new ONS data showed, as a result, there are lots more cases of alcohol-related liver disease and many more people dying from the largely preventable condition.
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Vanessa Hebditch, Director of Policy at the British Liver Trust said: “This new data confirms our fears that the increase in alcohol consumption and the disruption to alcohol support services during the pandemic has sadly led to thousands more deaths from alcohol-related liver disease.
“This must serve as a wake-up call to the Government that the UK urgently needs a joined-up plan to address the liver disease crisis as the UK recovers from Covid.
“They also need to tackle the affordability and acceptability of alcohol in our society.”
Are you at risk?
Drinking alcohol to excess is the leading cause of liver disease in the UK, causing around 60 percent of all cases.
Most people don’t realise that it isn’t just alcoholics who get the disease and a huge proportion of Brits are at risk.
Vanessa said: “A common myth is that you have to be an ‘alcoholic’ to damage your liver.
“The truth is that more than one in five people in the UK currently drink alcohol in a way that could harm their liver.”
One of the reasons alcohol-related liver disease deaths are so high is because it’s hard to catch it early.
There are often no symptoms of alcohol-related liver disease in the early stages, and when symptoms do appear they can be vague, such as feeling tired and a loss of appetite, Vanessa explained.
She added: “Unfortunately, this means that in many cases alcohol-related liver disease is only diagnosed at a later stage when significant damage has already been done and treatment options are limited.”
In fact, around three-quarters of people are diagnosed at a stage when it is too late for lifestyle changes or interventions.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the best thing you can do to prevent liver disease is to keep an eye on your lifestyle choices.
Firstly, everyone should be drinking alcohol in moderation and for healthy adults, that means up to one drink a day for women and up to two drinks a day for men.
Heavy or high-risk drinking is defined as more than eight drinks a week for women and more than 15 drinks a week for men.
For all liver diseases, you should keep your weight to a healthy range as being very overweight or obese may cause fat to build up in the liver.
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