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How Not to Wreck Your Liver

Care for Your Liver continued...

Stay away from medicines (or combinations of medicines) that harm the liver. Cholesterol drugs and the painkiller acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be toxic to the liver if too much is taken over time or at once. You may be taking more Tylenol than you realize; it's found in hundreds of drugs like cold medicines and prescription pain medicines. Certain combinations of drugs can be toxic to the liver; so can taking some medicines while drinking alcohol. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about what medicines shouldn’t be combined with each other or alcohol. And always follow dosage information.

Be aware of hepatitis and how it is transmitted. Hepatitis is a virus that causes the liver to become inflamed. There are several different types. Hepatitis A is transmitted by water or food that's been contaminated with bacteria found in feces. It usually gets better on its own. Hepatitis B and C are transmitted through blood and body fluids. If untreated, it can lead to cirrhosis, liver cancer, and liver failure. Hand washing and avoiding places that don't seem clean can prevent hepatitis A. To prevent hepatitis B and C, don't share items like toothbrushes, razors, or needles, limit the number of sex partners you have, and always use latex condoms if you have more than one partner.

Get tested for and vaccinated against hepatitis. Because hepatitis often doesn't cause symptoms, you can have it for years without knowing it. If you think you've been exposed, talk to your doctor about being tested. Baby boomers in particular are urged to get tested for hepatitis C. There are vaccines for hepatitis A and hepatitis B.

Don’t touch or breathe in toxins. Cleaning products, aerosol products, insecticides, chemicals, and additives in cigarettes contain toxins that can damage liver cells. Avoid direct contact with them, and don’t smoke.

Be careful with herbs and dietary supplements. Herbal remedies, herbal combinations, and dietary supplements aren't subject to the same approval process as medications, and some can harm the liver. A few that have caused liver problems are cascara, chaparral, comfrey, kava kava, and ephedra.

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