Liver disease deaths in England have risen by 20% in a decade because of alcohol abuse, poor diet and lack of physical activity.
Alcohol is one of the biggest causes of liver disease
Professor Dame Sally Davies, Chief Medical Office for England, has released the first volume of her two-part annual report which looked at a range of diseases from cancer to dementia. She found that high levels of drinking and obesity mean that England is one of the few places in Europe seeing a rise in liver-disease deaths in the under 65s.
Premature deaths from the condition have jumped by a fifth since the year 2000 to 10 per 100,000 people. In comparison, most other European countries have seen rates fall.
Dame Sally said that all three of the major causes of liver disease- obesity, alcohol abuse and undiagnosed hepatitis infection- are all preventable. She said:
"This is the only major cause of preventative death that is on the increase in England that is generally falling in other comparable European nations."
Dame Sally added that seven in ten people in England have two or more unhealthy habits that can raise the risk of an early death, including smoking, binge drinking, lack of fruit and vegetables and obesity.
Andrew Langford, chief executive of the British Liver Disease Trust, said the government needed to get the NHS to be more proactive. He said: "We need to ensure GPs have far more awareness of liver disease and can recognise lifestyles that might be changed and early symptoms of liver disease so that effective treatments can be started.”
The government is looking to introduce a minimum price for alcohol, and a consultation is expected to start on the subject soon. Eric Appleby, chief executive of Alcohol Concern, said:
"Setting a minimum unit price at 50p is one of a number of measures which will help protect those most vulnerable to the harm caused by alcohol misuse and I urge the government to act quickly on this."
Because the liver has no pain fibres there are often no signs that damage is happening until the disease is far advanced. For quick access to diagnostic tests and private treatment, look for a private health insurance policy with a good level of inpatient and outpatient cover.
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