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Surprising Things That Can Damage Your Liver

Sugar

Too much sugar isn’t just bad for your teeth. It can harm your liver, too. The organ uses one type of sugar, called fructose, to create fat. Too much refined sugar and high-fructose corn syrup cause a fatty buildup that can lead to liver disease. Some studies show that sugar can be as damaging to the liver as alcohol, even if you’re not overweight. One more reason to limit foods with added sugars, like soda, pastries, and candy.

 

MSG (Monosodium Glutamate)

MSG enhances the flavor of many packaged and prepared foods, from chips to diet drinks. (You might see it on a food label as “hydrolyzed vegetable protein,” “yeast extract,” or “soy extract.”) Still, some studies of animals suggest that the chemical may make the liver fatty and inflamed, which can lead to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and liver cancer. Scientists need more research to know if MSG affects humans the same way.

 

Herbal Supplements

Just because the label says “natural” doesn’t mean it’s safe. One serious danger is kava kava, an herb that can relieve menopause symptoms and help you relax. Studies show it can keep the liver from working, causing hepatitis and liver failure. Some countries have banned or restricted the herb, but it’s still available in the U.S. You should always talk to your doctor before you take any herbs to make sure they’re safe.

 

Obesity

If you’re carrying around extra weight, fat can also build up in your liver cells, which can lead to NAFLD. It can make the liver swell. Over time, hardened scar tissue can replace healthy tissue (a condition doctors call cirrhosis). People who are overweight or obese, middle-aged, or have diabetes are at highest risk of NAFLD. There’s no cure, but eating well and exercise can sometimes reverse the disease.

 

Too Much Vitamin A

You can find vitamin A in eggs and milk as well as fresh fruits and vegetables, especially those that are red, orange, and yellow. Many supplements also include it since it helps improve vision, strengthen bones, and give a boost to your immune system.  But in very high doses, vitamin A is toxic to the liver. To stay safe, never take more than 10,000 IU a day.

Unsterile Tattoos

When you get a tattoo or body piercing in a licensed, clean shop that sterilizes its equipment after each customer, the chances you’ll get a serious infection like hepatitis C are low. But if tools aren’t properly cleaned, your risk of hep C shoots up. The virus spreads through contact with the blood of an infected person and causes serious, sometimes lifelong liver illness. Check out the shop and its safety record before you get inked.

 

Soft Drinks

Scientists studied the diets of a group of people with NAFLD, taking into account their weight, the amount of fat in their blood, and if they had diabetes. One thing stood out: 80% of them drank 2 or more soft drinks a day. It didn’t matter if it was calorie-free or regular soda, which means an ingredient besides sugar could play a role in the condition. There’s no hard evidence, but some researchers think artificial sweeteners might be to blame.

 

Antidepressants

It’s rare, but some antidepressants can harm your liver, even if you take them for only a few days. In some cases, the damage can be deadly. Older people or anyone taking a lot of other meds are at higher risk because their liver may be damaged already. If you’re taking antidepressants, talk with your doctor to make sure you’re on the smallest dose you need. Make sure you know the symptoms of liver illness to watch for.

 

Trans Fats

Trans fats are a man-made fat common in packaged foods and baked goods. (You’ll see them listed in the ingredients as “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil” or “vegetable shortening.”) A diet high in trans fats not only boosts your chances of gaining weight, it makes severe liver disease with scar tissue more likely. In one study, mice that ate a fast-food diet high in trans fats had liver damage after only 4 months.

 

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Canadians to government: Help keep seniors at home

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Canadians want to stay at home when get older, and they want the government to help.

The vast majority, 93%, of Canadians believe the country should adopt a national health-care strategy to keep seniors at home as long as possible, found a Canadian Medical Association report. And they say that strategy should involve lightening the burden on hospitals, hospices and long-term care facilities by keeping seniors at home longer.

“The results of this year’s CMA report card send a clear and direct message to policy-makers and public office holders that all levels of government need to act to address the demographic tsunami that is heading toward the health-care system,” said CMA president Dr. Anna Reid in a press release.

What’s more, most people think the country currently is doing a poor job at taking care of its seniors and isn’t ready for the growing population of elderly Canadians.

Less than half, 41%, believe facilities in their areas can handle the number of seniors who can’t stay at home.

Canadians are worried about their own futures, with 83% saying they’re concerned about health care in retirement, and 77% saying they’re worried about having access to high quality home care and long-term care.

“The anxiety Canadians have about health care in their so-called golden years is both real and well-founded,” Reid added. “Let there be no doubt that a national strategy for seniors health care should be a federal priority.”

The CMA surveyed 1,000 Canadians over 18 between July 17-26, with a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points at a 95% confidence level.

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Home care clients who require urgent care need an alternative to the Emergency Department

Between 2008 and 2013, the number of Canadians receiving some form of home care grew by 55 per cent, to 1.4 million. And as our population continues to age, more and more Canadians expect that care at home will be a viable option. Since the beginning of many coordinated home care programs in the late 1980s home care clients have changed. They are sicker, frailer, more acute, and more complex. The challenge is that in spite of the growth in numbers and increasing complexity and acuity, home care programs are having to do more with less. Demand for home care is increasing, but funding has not kept pace. Although home care programs are seeing more clients who are sicker, the volume of service per client is shrinking in order to keep up with this growing demand.  If home care is to be sustainable in this environment, we need new and innovative options to adequately address care needs in the community.

Home care programs offer sophisticated care and effectively manage complex conditions and multiple chronic conditions. However, there are times where a more acute event, a decrease in health status, or a need for more intensive observation or intervention is required. Interventions that are not required, nor are they best provided, in an acute care hospital or busy emergency department. Yet because we do not currently have an integrated health care system, if someone currently requires more urgent intervention for a condition that is not life threatening, there is little option other than going to an emergency department.

A promising alternative to the current situation is a transitional or halfway hospital. A transitional hospital could serve a population in a geographic area in an integrated manner when they are already a part of a home care program. A home care client may have fluctuating levels of health and need an urgent intervention, but not necessarily from an acute care hospital. For example, a frail elderly person who suffers from a short-term illness like a virus that creates a state of dehydration or electrolyte imbalance that cannot be fully managed at home and requires a short term intervention. There are a myriad of other health concerns that are urgent – but not emergencies -, that lead home care clients to seek hospital care because there are no intermediary options.

This kind of solution exists in many parts of Sweden. A transitional short stay (24-72 hours) unit designated just for home care clients—for clients known to their team and connected to their team – a truly integrated system. Such an option could be offered in Canada. There would of course be parameters around the type of concerns that could be seen and how many over-night stays could be accommodated. In a transitional, or half way hospital, the services provided would be much less intensive than the hospital would provide, but more intensive than home care can provide. Most often the individual might require frequent intervention for a few days such as IV antibiotics, comprehensive wound care, or monitoring of a frail elderly person for a few days. Home care provides regular but episodic care whereas in a transitional hospital care would be more regular and could support integrated care; at least for home care clients. Monitoring and decision making by a health care professional such as physicians or nurses or more frequent observation by a regulated professional would be possible. This level of care would be less expensive than occupying space in an emergency department or in an acute care hospital and being seen by member of the health care team would be expedited because the client is already known to the team. This would be the case in an integrated system.

In Canada, this level of care is only available in acute care hospitals. In many cases clients with complex chronic conditions recognize a problem they are experiencing that requires intervention. It is time for some creative problem solving and decision making if we hope to create a sustainable health care system into the future. . It is time to stop doing things the same old way in home care programs—after 30 odd years it is time for a change.

Kimberly D. Fraser is a professor in the Faculty of Nursing at the University of Alberta.

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