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If you're like most people, you probably don't think much about your liver. Everything you eat or drink, including all medications you take, pass through this organ, situated in the upper right portion of your abdomen. Your liver is responsible for a number of very important bodily functions, starting with acting as an important component of the digestive system, with the bile it produces helping to break down foods.

The short list of liver functions includes storing carbohydrates, detoxification of substances in the body, metabolism of carbohydrates and fats, and the making of plasma proteins. Now that you're thinking about your liver, your private duty professionals from the region around Lake Stevens and elsewhere would like to remind you that October is National Liver Awareness Month, and there's no better time to think about trying to maintain good liver health into your senior years.

General care for the liver

Unlike the heart, which can be strengthened by certain beneficial foods, there aren't really many drinks or foodstuffs which are particularly nourishing for your liver. In fact, the rule of thumb for general liver care is to avoid things which are harmful to the liver, rather than ingesting anything which can boost liver function. The lifestyle elements described below collectively make up the most beneficial checklist of things you can do to keep your liver healthy now, and well into your senior years.

Diet and exercise

At the top of most 'best practices' for good health, you'll find eating a healthy diet and getting plenty of exercise. Promoting good liver health is no exception to that because these two practices act to discourage the gaining of too much weight, which can lead to all kinds of liver problems, as well as other health issues. When a person becomes overweight, it can lead directly to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), which occurs when excessive deposits of fat build upon the liver. While it can cause serious issues all on its own, NAFLD is also considered a risk factor for developing other serious diseases.

Avoid alcohol consumption

Drinking a little alcohol does not usually trigger any harmful reaction in the liver, but excessive consumption over a prolonged period often leads to cirrhosis of the liver. Cirrhosis is a condition characterized by the damaging of liver cells, which leads to swelling and scarring of the tissue in the liver, and when this reaches an advanced state, it can be fatal. Federal guidelines recommend that men consume no more than two alcoholic beverages in a single day and that women consume no more than one daily. Anything above that which is consumed on a regular basis can put a person at risk for developing cirrhosis. 

Be wary of medications

There are certain medications which are harmful to your liver, and these should be avoided if at all possible. For instance, some drugs intended to manage cholesterol can have side effects which damage liver cells. The very common pain-killing medicine acetaminophen (Tylenol), can cause major damage to your liver if you ingest more than you should, especially for a prolonged period of time. Many people are unaware that acetaminophen is present in more drugs than the headache tablets you purchase over the counter.

There is also acetaminophen in cold medicines and other pain medications, so you should make a point of checking the label on any drugs you buy at the local pharmacy, and avoid consumption of excessive acetaminophen. You should also consult with your doctor about the possibility of interactions between some of the drugs you currently take because some types of drug interactions can be very harmful to your liver.

Understand about viral hepatitis

Viral hepatitis is one of the most serious diseases which can affect your liver, and there are several different types of it to be aware of. The strain known as Hepatitis A can be contracted from eating food or drinking water which has been infected with the virus. When you're traveling to regions of the world where there have been known outbreaks of the disease, it is highly advisable to be vaccinated prior to making your trip. Both Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C can be contracted via body fluids which contain the virus.

You can lower your risk of catching this virus by not sharing items like razors, toothbrushes, and needles.  There is a vaccination for Hepatitis B, but none has yet been developed for Hepatitis C, so you can't totally protect yourself against this.