The liver is the second largest organ in the body. It has more than 500 different jobs. The liver regulates your body's chemical levels and flushes toxins out of the blood. It also produces cholesterol and certain proteins for blood plasma. The liver supports many of the other organs in the body as well. So what happens when the cells of the liver are damaged or inflamed? Certain chemicals, including liver enzymes alanine transaminase (ALT) and aspartate transaminase (AST), may leak into the bloodstream. When this occurs, it raises red flags on a routine blood test. There are many different reasons elevated liver enzymes may show up on your blood test.
Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease is the most common cause of elevated levels of ALT and AST in the blood. NAFLD affects people who do not consume a lot of alcohol. It is marked by too much fat stored in liver cells. Only 5 to 10 percent of a healthy liver consists of fat. A liver with higher fat content is considered a fatty liver (steatosis). Currently, NAFLD affects 25 to 30 percent of the population in the Americas. In severe cases, NAFLD can cause the liver to swell (steatohepatitis). This can lead to scarring (cirrhosis), raising the risk of liver cancer or liver failure. Increased risk factors for fatty liver include obesity, rapid weight loss, and Type 2 diabetes.
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