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Exercise and eat healthy

Exercise and eat healthy to boost your liver for great health, says Dr Suresh Singhvi (World Health Day 2019, 10-June-2019)

New Delhi (TIMESNOWNEWS.COM): Your liver is not something you probably think much about. But it’s one of the most important organs in the body, performing a variety of essential tasks, ranging from producing proteins and bile, which helps you break down fat from food, to storing glycogen – which is broken down into glucose and released into the bloodstream when the body needs energy. The liver makes proteins that enable the blood to clot and helps remove or process alcohol, drugs, and toxins. This World Health Day on April 7, take some simple steps to take care of your liver for a healthy life.

The reality is that your liver is an organ you could easily ruin if you don’t take good care of it. About the size of a football and sits under your lower ribcage on the right side, your liver is a key player in your body and it makes sense do what you can to protect it. These include making healthier lifestyle choices to prevent or lower your risk of liver disease.

On the occasion of World Health Day, we spoke to Dr Suresh Singhvi, Chief Liver Transplant Surgeon, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, New Delhi, who tells us the importance of liver care for healthy living, and how you can best prevent common diseases such as fatty liver disease and hepatitis B. Below are the excerpts from the Interview.

What are the diseases that concern you the most as a Liver Transplant Surgeon? Also, tell us the different stages of liver disease and how they can be treated.

Dr Singhvi: Some of the common diseases that worry us include- fatty liver disease, alcohol-induced liver disease, non-alcohol induced liver disease, hepatitis B and C, cirrhosis, etc.

Liver damage is divided into 4 stages:

  • Stage 1: Simple fatty liver (steatosis)
  • Stage 2: Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH)
  • Stage 3: Fibrosis (scarring of liver)
  • Stage 4: Cirrhosis ( chronic liver disease)

Stage 1, 2, and to some extent, stage 3, are reversible with diet, exercise, weight loss and medicines. However, a patient with stage 4 liver disease or cirrhosis will require liver transplantation.

What is hepatitis B and how do you get it?

Dr Singhvi: Hepatitis B is a serious liver infection caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV), but it is preventable by a vaccine. Left untreated, it can cause scarring of the organ, liver failure, and cancer. Hepatitis B is spread when blood, semen, or other body fluid infected with the hepatitis B virus enters the body of a person who is not infected. People can become infected with the virus during activities such as:

  • Mother to child (the hepatitis B virus can be spread from an infected mother to her baby during childbirth)
  • Sharing needles, syringes, or other drug-injection equipment.
  • Sharing items – such as razors or toothbrushes with an infected person.
  • Direct contact with the blood or open sores of an infected person.
  • Exposure to blood from needlesticks or other sharp instruments.

Can Hepatitis B spread through sex?

Dr Singhvi: Yes. Many adults transmit infection through sexual contact, which accounts for nearly two-thirds of acute hepatitis B cases. In fact, Hepatitis B is 50-100 times more infectious than HIV and can be passed on through the exchange of body fluids, such as semen, vaginal fluids, and blood.

Who is at risk for Hepatitis B?

Dr Singhvi: Your risk of getting Hepatitis B infection increases if you:

  • Have sex with an infected person.
  • Have multiple sex partners.
  • Have a sexually transmitted disease.
  • Are men who have sexual contact with other men.
  • Inject drugs or share needles, syringes, or other drug equipment.
  • Are an infant born to an infected mother.
  • Exposed to blood on the job.
  • Are on hemodialysis.

Who should get Hepatitis B vaccine?

Dr Singhvi: All infants should get vaccinated, starting with the first dose of hepatitis B vaccine at birth. All children and adolescents younger than 19 years of age who have not been vaccinated should get the shot.

The Hepatitis B vaccine is also recommended for:

  • People whose sex partners have Hepatitis B.
  • People seeking evaluation for a sexually transmitted disease.
  • Men who have sexual contact with other men.
  • People who share needles, syringes or other drug injection systems.
  • People who have contact with someone infected with hepatitis B virus.
  • Health care workers – doctors, nurses, laboratory technicians, and other medical staff.
  • Hemodialysis patients.

And of course, anyone who wishes to protect themselves against Hepatitis B.

Is hepatitis B curable?

Dr Singhvi: Yes, it is curable, and the patient has to take antiviral therapy under the guidance of a specialist doctor. If you are infected, you must take precautionary measures to help prevent spreading the virus to your spouse/partner.

What are your remedies for liver care or keeping the liver healthy?

Dr Singhvi: As the saying goes ‘prevention is better than cure’, it is always better to avoid liver disease rather than finding cures for the condition after it occurs. Here are some simple ways to keep your liver healthy:

  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet.
  • Clean vegetables and fruits before consuming them.
  • Drink plenty of water to keep you hydrated.
  • Get regular exercise – Yoga, meditation, cardiac workout, etc.
  • Maintain a healthy weight – your liver will thank you. Being overweight or obese increases your risk f non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), a condition that leads to cirrhosis.
  • Take delicious food in moderation and not regularly – fried food occasionally to satisfy the demands of your taste buds.
  • Drink alcohol in moderation – social drinks, not every day.
  • Avoid smoking/chewing tobacco products.

What does healthy living mean to you?

Dr Singhvi: It is about creating a lifestyle where you feel balanced physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Most of the exercise regimes of the modern day look at the physical aspect of well-being. Yet, all happiness at the end of the day is from a state of mental well-being. Yoga is an activity that can help you achieve both — creating well-being in the mind while also bringing you closer to perfection in physical health.

What are the basic tips that you would suggest for living a healthier life?

Dr Singhvi: There are many things you can do to help improve your health and well-being. These include:

  • Exercising regularly
  • Choosing clean water as a drink over soft drinks and other sugar-sweetened beverages.
  • Eating a healthy diet, focusing more on fruits and vegetables
  • Taking steps for clean air.
  • Balancing work/hobby/personal life
  • Adopting healthy habits to prevent and decrease your risk of many potentially lethal diseases, such as liver disease, heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, lung disease, and pollution-related conditions, etc.

Based on your experience, what is the difference between lifestyles in Europe as compared to India?

Dr Singhvi: We Indians are as much hard working as any professional in the world. We eat and drink as much and more than any people in the world. The variety in the menu cannot be beaten by any country in the world. We can be the loudest in any form of music and can compare with the loudness of Rock music. But, we lag behind in physical fitness compared to all other developed countries, although that is changing.

Do you have any take-home message for our readers?

Dr Singhvi: Work hard and enjoy your life. Life is precious, it is not to be wasted. Everyone has to die, but whether to die healthy or unhealthy is your choice. Practice yoga, which is a way of life and can bring flexibility in every aspect of life. Avoid being obsessed with good health, which means you can spoil yourself occasionally. It is unquestionably healthy to be concerned about your health, but obsessions can fragment the wholeness of health and disrupt the quality of life. The key here is finding the balance in your everyday life that can help you lead a healthier, happier life.