True or false? I never drink alcohol, so I’m safe from liver disease.
The answer is false. Viruses, hereditary defects and reactions to drugs and chemicals—as well as alcohol—can damage your liver.
Fortunately, your liver is a sturdy organ, able to work even after most of its cells become diseased. But once your liver degenerates beyond a certain point, it stops functioning, so keeping it healthy is critical.
Your liver is one of your body’s largest organs. About the size of a football, this cone-shaped organ weighs nearly three pounds and is located behind the lower right side of your ribs.
Your liver performs a number of jobs:
- It processes everything that enters your body, filtering out toxins and storing nutrients.
- It regulates your metabolism and stores glucose that’s released when you need energy.
- It manufactures chemicals, including bile and cholesterol, which help your body function.
More than a hundred diseases can affect your liver, including hepatitis and cirrhosis. If your doctor suspects you have liver disease, he or she will order diagnostic tests and, if necessary, recommend nutritional and other lifestyle changes to halt further damage.
To keep your liver in top shape, follow these lifestyle tips:
- Limit or avoid alcohol. Even moderate drinking can cause liver disease in some people.
- Eat a balanced, nourishing diet and exercise regularly.
- Take only those drugs your doctor recommends for only as long as you need them.
- Get liver function tests when needed, especially if you have risk factors for liver disease or you take medications that may damage the liver.
- Avoid breathing in or touching aerosol sprays, insecticides, paints and other chemicals.
Your liver will keep you healthy your entire life—as long as you keep it healthy.