Sitting at the beach, casually looking about, it's pretty difficult to avoid drawing a certain conclusion. A fairly large percentage of men in their forties and beyond are overweight. In fact, overweight may be a generous term considering the disparity in the shoulder-to-waist ratios exhibited by younger men versus—should I say it—men of my own generation.
Of course, it's always been this way, from time immemorial (well, perhaps not counting the hunter-gatherer period when it was practically impossible to get any kind of gut, let alone a beer gut). People get older, joints begin to creak, skin begins to sag, and "certain areas" get broader. Where I live, in the American South, this seems particularly true of guys who are past forty.
Obesity. You hear it talked about all the time. And when most people think of obesity, they think of the vanity consequences. However, while being obese can destoy your self-esteem and make life more challenging in various ways, there are other life-threatening reasons to eat healthy, engage in regular exercise, and keep your weight down. One of the biggest consequences of obesity is liver disease.
Liver damage is a huge problem in the United States, and not because of drinking. Statistics show that one of the most common health issues found in obese teens and children is liver damage. In fact, one out of every three Americans is estimated to have non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. The reasons are simple: overeating, high sugar diets, and processed junk foods. As a fast food nation, the amount of liver damage our country is experiencing is skyrocketing. The amount of diabetes and liver disease affecting adults is reaching all-time highs, and the amount of diabetes and liver disease affecting children today is staggering.
If left untreated, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease progresses into more serious issues. Liver damage can turn into steatohepatitis. ‘Steato’ means ‘fat’, and ‘hepatitis’ means ‘inflammation of the liver’. The disease is characterized by fat accumulation in the liver and inflammation of the liver. When caused by obesity or diabetes (often linked with obesity) it is called non-alcoholic steatohepatitis. If liver damage progresses past steatohepatitis, liver fibrosis can be the result. This is the end stage and requires a liver transplant for survival.
It is estimated that the United States will see a steady and growing rise in liver transplants in the coming years. The only known treatment for liver disease due to obesity is not a treatment at all, but a lifestyle plan and way of life. The only way to stop the rapid spread of liver disease is to get regular physical activity and eat a healthy diet based on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats.
When a patient is going to have laparoscopic surgery, they are advised to eat a low calorie, low sugar diet that allows the liver to rest. This diet allows for a reduction in liver inflammation so the surgeon can see clearly for surgery. Since this diet works well for surgery, it could also work well for normal, daily living. The main requirement is a low intake of calories, along with no fruit punches, fruit juices, sodas, energy drinks, or unnecessary sugar in the form of drinks or food. It is also advised to eat whole, fresh foods and lean meats, while avoiding processed, fried or fast foods.
The liver is an amazing organ. If you start taking care of yourself before your liver is severely damaged, many times the liver will bounce back to its original state. Liver damage can be reduced and reversed, but it must be caught early and the power is in the individual’s hands. No pill or surgery can take care of liver damage; only living healthy and caring for oneself can keep the liver healthy. With proper exercise and a thoughtful diet, obesity, diabetes, and liver damage can be reversed.
So, for guys in middle age and beyond, the next time your primal impulses seem to compel you, beyond reason and sanity, to wolfishly down that Domino's pizza all by yourself, consider that it's not just your self-esteem and your mid-section that are potentially at stake. It may also be your internal organs, all of which are very important, no doubt, but few more important than your liver.