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Around a month ago we were trying to think of an example of someone who ticks all the boxes for a potential liver disease sufferer when it struck us... Santa Claus! We realise this isn't the cheery, happy image of Father Christmas that we have all been brought up with, but maybe we should be concerned about the Christmas icon's health? In order to fully assess the risk involved in Santa's unhealthy lifestyle, we decided to imagine what would happen if he had a Medichecks Liver Check Plus, with shocking results!
Let's take a look at the facts and make some scientific (ish) calculations. We will take an average, and imaginary, UK street as our example, we'll call it Elf Road. Let's say that in this case there are 30 houses on Elf Road for Santa to visit on Christmas eve, and he eats one mince pie and drinks one standard measure of sherry at each of them. There are around 300 calories in an average mince pie and about 12g of fat, therefore after having visited just one street he has already consumed a whopping 9,000 calories which is over three times the recommended daily allowance for men! It has to be said, Santa is no slim jim and certainly carries the majority of his extra weight around his abdomen; a classic 'apple' shape. According to current recommendations, a man's waist should ideally be under 37 inches to minimise the risk of developing heart disease. As for the sherry, having drunk 30 standard 50ml measures, poor Santa's liver has had to take on 30 units of alcohol! It is all part of the job, but what are the health implications for poor Mr Claus and his liver?
We tend to associate obesity and poor diet with heart problems, and alcohol consumption with liver problems. However in reality there is a lot of overlap between the two lifestyle factors and their effects on the body's organs. As you may have read in our previous blog entry "Liver Disease: Coming to a pub near you", one of the biggest causes of liver disease in the UK is actually obesity, leading to fatty liver disease. Sadly Santa is firmly in both of the risk categories for liver cirrhosis and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease- he tends to overindulge with both food and drink, I'm sure the majority of us can relate to this situation, particularly at this time of year. Regardless of whether the culprit comes in the form of a chocolate bar or a bottle of merlot, liver disease is the term given to the process of fat building up on the liver and the resulting inflammation of the liver which prevents it from successfully removing toxins from the body.
Our Liver Check Plus blood test works by measuring the levels of various enzymes which are produced in the liver, in order to assess whether or not the organ is working at full capacity or being prevented from doing so by inflammation. An example of one of the enzymes the test measures is Alanine Transferase (catchy no?), an enzyme which is often elevated in cases of excessive alcohol consumption. After his Christmas Eve binge on sherry, port and whatever other boozy delights are kindly left for him, there is a high chance Santa's levels of alanine transferase will be out of the ideal range of 10-50 IU/L. Another of the important tests involved in the Liver Check Plus, is the serum market Hyaluronic Acid. One of the problems with the diagnosis of liver disease is that it has no explicit symptoms until the disease has reached quite an advanced stage. This, coupled with the fact that the liver has no pain fibres, means that otherwise reversible damage can be left undiagnosed for years until inflammation has got so bad that the liver has stopped being able to repair itself. We don't know how long Santa has sustained this lifestyle for, or his exact age (that's a gentleman's prerogative) but judging by that fine mane of white hair, we would put him at at least 65, and therefore at greater risk of liver disease.
We do feel bad for targeting poor Santa and his unhealthy ways, however he does illustrate our point perfectly: you may feel healthy but your liver could be slowly sickening due to your less-than-ideal lifestyle choices. The good news for both you and Santa is that the liver is a miraculous organ that can repair itself fairly successfully if you severely restrict your drinking/stop drinking for a couple of months and lose weight. However, if you are unaware of the damage being done to your liver, you are unlikely to realise the necessity of making these important changes to your lifestyle and THAT is where our Liver Check Plus comes into its own.