Thursday, June 16, 2022

18 Million Filipinos are Suffering from the "Silent Epidemic"


Did you know that at least 18 million Filipinos are either suffering from or at the risk of a disease considered a silent epidemic?

As a mom, hearing this data from an expert during the online press conference organized by the Hepatology Society of the Philipines (HSP), entitled "Fatty Liver Facts: What You Need to Know About This Silent Epidemic", I was alarmed and I was worried for myself, my family, my friends, especially my kids.

Silent epidemic
Fatty Liver disease is also called the " silent epidemic" which affects 115 million people around the world. It has no symptoms at the early stages, which is why many people are unaware that they have it until it's too late.

How it is initially detected?
- often accidentally diagnosed
- fatty liver on ultrasound
- abnormal ALT or SGPT on routine tests
- may have normal blood tests

According to Dr.Allan Policarpio, President of the Philippine Society of Gastroenterology, fatty liver disease is a little-known, potentially fatal condition affecting many people. He also added that the public can learn about it by listening to experts.

There are two types of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)non-alcoholic fatty liver (NAFL) and its more progressive type, the non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). The main characteristic of both is too much fat stored in liver cells. Having small amounts of fat in the liver is normal, but it becomes a problem if more than 5% to 10% percent of the liver’s weight is fat.

As the prevalence of NASH continues to rise, it is important to understand the signs and symptoms to look out for:
➡️ jaundice
➡️ flu-like symptoms, fever
➡️ nausea and vomiting/diarrhea
➡️ joint pains, muscle aches
➡️ upper right stomach pain
➡️ lack of appetite
➡️ tiredness
➡️ light-colored stools/ dark urine

"The Philippines has over 18 million obese and overweight people. They are all susceptible to NAFLD, noted Dr. Diana Alcantara-Payawal, President of the Philippine College of Physicians. “Some of them may already have fatty liver disease but are unaware of it,” she added. 

Dr. Edhel S. Tripon of HSP stated that fatty liver is the fastest rising cause of liver cancer and cirrhosis worldwide. "People who are overweight, diabetic, or hypertensive are prone to developing fatty liver.”

Our liver is the largest internal organ. It cleanses our blood, regulates cholesterol, regulates the balance of hormones, makes important body proteins, regulates essential vitamins and minerals, produces bile: for toxin elimination, and helps digestion.

Dr. Tripon also stressed the importance of keeping the liver healthy. “The liver is a multitasking hard worker, so it is important to keep this organ as healthy as possible. A healthy liver is fundamental to wellness.”

To lower the risk of developing fatty liver disease, HSP Vice President Dr. Wendell Z. Espinosa said “we need to raise awareness about how to avoid modifiable risk factors among adolescents and young adults. We need to increase the public's awareness about nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, which would likely lead to better prevention, early detection, and treatment of the disorder.”

What can we do to lower the risk of NAFLD?
✔ maintain a healthy weight and exercise most days of the week
✔ limit sugar; choose a plant-based diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats
✔ ask your physician about screening for NAFLD and NASH.

The Hepatology Society of the Philippines is the lead organization in the study and care of liver health and disease among Filipinos. HSP provides research, education, and advocacy on liver health and liver-related diseases. Part of its mission is to share information, services, and expertise with the global community towards the prevention and treatment of liver diseases.

Together, we can #StopNASHnow! Keep moving.
No liver, no life!

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