There is a new epidemic threatening the lives of the middle-aged demographic, and it might be something that you would least expect — liver disease. When you think of liver disease, you typically think of something that previous generations dealt with — not today.
Not during a time in society that there is so much public information regarding health and wellness. Not in a time where we are more concerned about what we put in our bodies than any previous generation.
Not in a time where everyone is gluten-free and eating plant-based diets, right? Wrong.
The number of liver disease cases linked to alcohol abuse among the younger generation is shocking, to say the least. There is a disturbing number of young adults that have drinking problems or had one in the past.
You see, liver disease can creep up on you, even if you severely cut back on the amount of alcohol you consume. There have even been reports of liver disease among young adults that have been sober for several years. Once the damage is done, the ill effects are not reversible.
Early Detection is Key to Liver Disease Survival (and Treatment)
Someone might have advanced liver disease but not be aware, so it’s important to visit your physician on a regular basis for an annual checkup. This is the easiest way to get to the root of the problem at its earliest stage.
Simple indicators like loss of appetite, low energy levels, etc. can all be signs of a problem. While there is a lot of information available online, what the internet cannot do is run diagnostic tests, and nothing can compare to an experienced health professional’s opinion.
When something like cirrhosis of the liver is identified, all alcohol consumption must stop. Failing to do so can result in death; and quickly, with many patients that don’t stop after being diagnosed dying within a year.
Genetics, family history, or the number of years one has been drinking doesn’t come into play. The disease can impact anyone that drinks heavily, even for a short period of time. With binge drinking and more alcohol use among the younger generation, it’s no surprise that liver disease cases are being reported.
Age doesn’t come into play — heavy drinking damages the liver, regardless of how old it is.
Report: Deaths Doubled in Less Than 20 Years
The number of young adults in their 20’s and 30’s that have signs of liver disease is growing, and at an alarming rate. According to a report by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the number of alcohol-related deaths doubled, from 36,000 to 72,000 per year. This comparison report studies data from 1999 to 2017 and 30 percent of the alcohol-related deaths were due to liver disease.
More proof that this problem is increasing among the younger generation can be found in a study conducted by the British Medical Journal from 2018, which highlighted the fact that the highest increase of cirrhosis was reported in adults in the 25 to 34 age demographic.
Throw the Stereotypes Out the Window
Not everyone that is diagnosed with liver disease is a stereotypical alcoholic. You might be shocked to learn that there was a 50 percent increase in women diagnosed with cirrhosis from 2009 to 2015, according to a study by the University of Michigan, which analyzed a sample size of 100 million people with private insurance.
Also, there is a large misconception when it comes to how much alcohol is too much. The younger generation is heavily influenced by marketing. Years ago, it was just TV commercials, magazine ads, and billboards that featured alcohol advertising.
Today, young adults are exposed to this marketing across social media, as well as having it digitally integrated throughout multiple channels. This marketing is responsible for capturing a large percent of the younger age demographic — specifically in college.
Prolonged drinking, even in what many would consider being “normal” amounts, can lead to early liver disease.
Functioning Alcoholics Contribute to This Increase
The number of younger functioning alcoholics is also a major contributing factor. That is, those that drink heavily on a regular basis and able to function day-to-day, while constantly consuming alcohol.
While some people may not drink as much because they can’t function or feel horrible the next day, these individuals are able to constantly drink without interfering with their ability to function. While they may not be as effective or productive, they are able to slide by, while continuing to drink.
This can be far more harmful than occasionally binge drinking according to experts. Especially one who experiments with binge drinking and then goes back to having an occasional drink here and there. Long-term daily drinking is far more deadly.
Alcohol-Related Diseases Aren’t Age-Related
A big misconception among the youth is that alcohol-related diseases, such as liver disease, will only strike older people — not those in their prime years. This is far from true, and this careless thinking leads to irresponsible drinking, which contributes to diseases and illness.
Anything more than “moderation” is asking for trouble, regardless of age. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines “moderation” as one drink for women or two for men, daily.
But, even following the “moderation” theory isn’t a guaranteed strategy to avoid medical issues. When it comes down to it some people can drink more than others. There are a lot of factors that play into how your body reacts to alcohol, how it processes it, etc.
Common Alcoholic Liver Hepatitis and Cirrhosis Symptoms
There are no 100 percent definite symptoms of these diseases, but there are some things that can point to alcoholic liver hepatitis and cirrhosis, with the most common being severe stomach pains to the point it’s very uncomfortable to function.
Another sign is rapid and extreme weight loss. The majority of cases report the patient experiencing both. The sooner you can diagnose the problem, the sooner you can stop the bleeding so-to-say. While it cannot be cured, it can be treated and its damage limited.
Again, this is only possible if alcohol is eliminated by 100 percent. Even moderate drinking will lead to higher mortality risks. Annual checkups and paying close attention to what your body is trying to tell you are key to prolonged life.
Heavy Drinkers Have a Higher Risk (Obviously)
Common sense will tell you that heavy drinkers will have a higher risk of developing liver disease, but how much higher? For that, we turn to a study by the American Liver Foundation, which states that nearly 20 percent of heavy drinkers will develop cirrhosis.
Once the damage is done and the liver tissue is scarred it becomes more difficult to reverse it. If one quits completely it can heal over time, but if drinking continues prevents the liver from healing and will ultimately lead to death.
While some symptoms like previously mentioned can be an indication of early-stage liver disease, not all cases show any symptoms. Then, by the time there are symptoms the disease is so far advanced there is no hope for recovery and the ill effects snowball out of control.
If you or a loved one is suffering from addiction, contact Detox of South Florida’s 24-hour hotline today at ☎ (863) 623-4923
The only way to reduce the number of liver disease cases in the younger age demographic is to educate the youth better. It’s important that they understand what prolonged drinking can do. What often starts as casual drinking in college can lead to long-term alcohol abuse.
With an emphasis on responsible drinking in moderation, we will witness these numbers decline significantly over time.
Dr. Vikram Tarugu, M.D, is the CEO of Detox of South Florida, Inc and medical professional focused on addiction. A veteran in the medical field with over 25 years of professional experience. He is a consultant for many South Florida Rehab centers. Patients travel from allover the US to seek his help with addiction and Hepatitis C treatment.
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