Cholesterol is naturally found in the body, and it’s made by your liver. Having cholesterol in your body is important for your health, but there are certain forms that can lead to health issues, and liver damage is just one example.
The liver is both responsible for producing cholesterol and releasing it into the bloodstream, as well as getting rid of any excess cholesterol that could lead to health problems. When the liver suffers damage, it becomes less capable of doing either of those things, which naturally causes an imbalance in how much cholesterol is in your blood.
There are a number of different liver function complications that could directly influence cholesterol levels.
Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease
NAFLD for short, this condition is a liver malfunction that is known to affect about a quarter of the population. It’s most common in people who are overweight or suffer from diabetes. There is a link between NAFLD and dyslipidemia, a condition characterized by abnormal cholesterol levels. NAFLD can also lead to lipodystrophy, which prevents the body from distributing fat evenly.
Cirrhosis is characterized by liver scarring, which makes it difficult for this organ to perform basic metabolic functions. Producing bile to help the body gets rid of dietary fats and cholesterol is one of the liver’s main roles, and cirrhosis can prevent that from happening.
Substance abuse can directly impact the main functions of the liver, causing permanent damage. Another one of your liver’s main jobs is to make sure that it metabolizes the chemicals it finds in the body. Anything from recreational drugs to prescription meds can cause liver injuries, particularly when they are taken without liver protection, or over very long periods of time. Some of the classes of drugs known to cause liver damage are:
- Drugs for acute and chronic hepatitis
- Medication for nonalcoholic steatohepatitis
- Meds for microvesicular steatosis
- Drugs that treat veno-occlusive disease
Cholesterol and liver health
Researchers have discovered that consuming foods rich in sugar and fat can have an impact on both cholesterol and liver health. Interestingly enough, these two factors can easily influence one another:
- When the liver suffers any form of damage, as mentioned above, it cannot perform its most important roles, such as helping the body get rid of excess cholesterol.
- If you have a diet rich in high cholesterol this can lead to fat being formed around the liver, which in turn leads to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.
Diagnosing liver damage
Whether it’s caused by high cholesterol levels or something else, diagnosing liver damage as soon as possible may be the key step in determining if it can be reversed. There are different tests you can take to assess the current health of your liver:
- Liver protein tests are very common in people who suspect potential liver damage. These tests will reveal the amount of albumin and globulin in the body: two proteins that can indicate loss of liver functions when their levels are too low. During this test, doctors will measure the amount of time required for your blood to clot, a process that uses a liver protein called prothrombin. When prothrombin levels are low, it takes longer for your blood to clot, which could indicate liver damage.
- The liver enzyme test will measure how much gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase, alkaline phosphatase, aspartate transaminase, and alanine transaminase are in your body. If any of these enzymes are found in larger quantities, you could suffer from liver damage.
- Bilirubin is transported to your gallbladder and your liver through your blood, and later released through stool. A bilirubin test can determine if there is too much bilirubin in the blood, which is also a potential sign of liver damage.
- The lipoprotein panels will determine the amount of lipids in your blood, as it measures total cholesterol, LDL and HDL levels, as well as triglyceride count.
Treating high cholesterol and liver damage
In order to treat a liver problem, doctors will first have to identify the underlying condition that’s causing it. Liver problems that are due to high cholesterol are actually some of the easiest ones to treat, provided the liver has yet to suffer irreparable damage.
The best thing to do is to avoid eating foods that are rich in fats and cholesterol, in order to prevent adding high levels of cholesterol into a body that can already make its own. In order to prevent raising cholesterol levels, a diet rich in fibers, lean meat, fish, brands, nuts, healthy oils, and whole grains is super important.
If you observe all the dietary recommendations given to people with high cholesterol, you will notice that they will also help those who have a liver disease: avoiding alcohol consumption, eating a lot of protein-rich foods, but also getting enough exercise.
Depending on the type of liver damage and the current stage it’s at, one can potentially reverse it by taking the medical and dietary approach. High cholesterol and liver problems have a strong influence on one another, meaning that’s important to keep one under control in order to prevent the other one from appearing.