Many medical researchers consider NASH a “lifestyle disease” associated with poor diet and low levels of exercise. In particular, NASH is associated with hypertension, heart disease, and adult onset diabetes, including pre-diabetes (insulin resistance) and Type 2 diabetes.
Adults of any age are more likely to suffer from NASH if they are overweight or obese. As Body Mass Index (BMI) increases, so does risk of NASH. A NASH diagnosis indicates the patient is much more likely than the average person to pass away if they experience heart attack or stroke.
NASH gradually leads to ballooning and inflation of liver tissue that can result in severe scarring of the liver, called cirrhosis. Scarred liver tissue reduces the overall function of the liver. In many cases, NASH is difficult to diagnose until these perilous later stages of the disease.
NASH is a progressive disease that worsens over time due to liver inflammation and the build-up of fat in the liver. Damage cannot be reversed. However, treatment and lifestyle changes can result in slowing the progression of the disease and create a better prognosis.
Reducing body fat is one of the most important ways to manage NASH. At the same time, many patients will go on treatment to reduce their cholesterol levels. Patients should be monitored for signs of diabetes. If diabetes develops, it should be aggressively controlled.
In addition to regular exercise, NASH patients should eliminate the use of alcohol. Because the liver is the body’s only mechanism for controlling the harmful health effects of alcohol, reduced liver function can result in undesirable side effects and further organ damage.
NASH has gained considerable attention in recent years. About 40% of Americans have some degree of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, and up to 20% of those people have NASH. This makes it a public health concern affecting millions of adults.
NASH clinical research is a crucial part of understanding this condition. Lifestyle, genetics, and demographic factors all interact to produce NASH. Each NASH clinical trial is a concrete step toward understanding those features and discovering a true cure for NASH.