According to the American Heart Association, 1 in 4 adults have this disease—but it often goes undiagnosed.
Bowl of fiber-rich vegetables and grains
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You've probably already heard that eating nutritious foods, like leafy greens, and exercising, even just talking a walk, can play a big role in maintaining a healthy heart. That's not all, though. According to Insider, an often-overlooked health condition can increase the risk of heart disease.

"It is important to know about the condition and treat it early because it is a risk factor for chronic liver damage and cardiovascular disease," says Dr. P. Barton Duell, M.D., FAHA, chair of the statement writing committee for the AHA.

The American Heart Association (AHA) reports that 1 in 4 adults unknowingly have nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), which is when the body amasses high fat content in the liver. The result? Scarring and inflammation, per the study published in the journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology.

Type 2 diabetes, obesity, and metabolic syndrome (high blood sugar and blood triglycerides, increased abdominal fat, and high blood pressure) are all common risk factors for those with both NAFLD and heart disease. However, people with NAFLD have a higher chance of developing heart disease in comparison to those who have risk factors without the liver disease. Plus, heart disease is the leading cause of death for those with NAFLD.

Unfortunately, Dr. Duell notes that NAFLD often goes unnoticed in medical examinations because the disease does not cause symptoms in most cases; it's often uncovered when a patient has a blood test or abdominal ultrasound for another reason.

When the disease is caught early, people can address the condition by adjusting their daily routines. The researchers explain that 20 to 30 minutes of exercise each day, limiting simple sugar intake and alcohol, and consuming fiber-rich vegetables and whole grains can reduce liver fat. The study's statement also notes that losing 5 to 10 percent of body weight can cut the amount of fat in the liver.


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