Cirrhosis is the final stage of chronic (ongoing) liver diseases. It takes years or decades for chronic liver disease to become cirrhosis. There’s no cure for cirrhosis. The best way to prevent it is to diagnose and treat your chronic liver disease.
There are some lifestyle choices you can make to help prevent this potentially fatal condition.
1. Go Easy on Alcohol
Consuming too much alcohol causes your liver to swell. Over time, this leads to cirrhosis. But this doesn’t happen overnight.
Alcohol-related cirrhosis is often the result of 10 or more years of heavy drinking, but some people are more prone to the disease than others. Women who drink heavily are more likely to get cirrhosis than men. To lower your chances of getting the disease, limit your drinking to no more than 14 units of alcohol a week. Here are how many units you consume, roughly, when you drink common alcoholic beverages:
- A small shot (25 milliliters, or 0.85 ounces) of hard alcohol is 1 unit.
- A small glass (125 milliliters, or 4.2 ounces) of wine is 1.5 units.
- 20 ounces of normal-strength lager is 2 units.
2. Protect Yourself Against Hepatitis
This is an inflammation of the liver. Most often, a virus causes it. The most common types of viral hepatitis are hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C. Chronic hepatitis B and C can cause cirrhosis.
Hepatitis B is passed from one person to another through blood, semen or other body fluids. Hepatitis C is caused by blood-to-blood contact. If you have chronic hepatitis C, there’s a higher chance you'll develop cirrhosis.
To lower your chances of becoming infected with hepatitis, you should avoid unprotected sex and don’t share needles to inject drugs.
Stay away from getting tattoos or body piercings in unclean environments. If you do get a tattoo, make sure the instruments are properly sterilized and needles are not shared.
3. Get Vaccinated
If you work in health care, law enforcement or any other profession where you might come in contact with people who have hepatitis, you should consider getting vaccinated against hepatitis B. There’s no vaccine for hepatitis C.
- Anyone under 19
- Anyone who has unprotected sex or uses intravenous drugs
- Anyone who’s been infected with hepatitis C or HIV
Kidney patients on hemodialysis
- People with liver disease
- Gay men
- People with diabetes who are between ages 19 and 59
- People traveling to areas with a higher incidence of hep B, such as South Asia and Africa
4. Watch What You Eat
If you stick to a healthy diet, limit your portions, and maintain a healthy weight, you’ll lower your chance of developing both NASH and cirrhosis.
5. Have a Cup (or Two) of Joe
It turns out that drinking more coffee may greatly lower your chance of cirrhosis. One large study showed that people who drank two or more cups of coffee a day were up to half as likely to get cirrhosis as those who drank less than one cup.
6. Take Statins
These drugs are typically used to treat high cholesterol. They may also help protect you from developing cirrhosis if you have hepatitis C and hepatitis B. Studies found people with hepatitis B who took statins were less likely to develop cirrhosis than those with hepatitis who weren’t on statins.
7. Get Tested
If you were born in South Asia, Africa, or other parts of the world where hepatitis B and C are common, you should be screened for cirrhosis. Early treatment can prevent the onset of the disease.
Anyone who should get a vaccine for hepatitis B (see above) should also be screened, along with baby boomers (born between 1945 and 1965).