Friday, October 20, 2017

The Liver Meeting® - Cardiovascular Risk in Women with Fatty Liver Disease: Risk is Not Equal Opportunity

Updates On This Blog
The Liver Meeting® 2017

Women with fatty liver disease at higher risk for heart disease
Liz Highleyman
Published:24 October 2017
The researchers calculated that a 50-year-old woman with fatty liver disease had about the same cardiovascular risk as a 53-year-old man with NAFLD, a 58-year-old man without NAFLD or a 67-year-old woman without NAFLD.

These findings show that the normal protective effect of female sex on cardiovascular risk is lost in women with fatty liver disease, Alina Allen, MD, of the Mayo Clinic said at an AASLD press conference.

NAFLD and its more severe form, NASH (non-alcoholic steatohepatitis), refer to the build-up of fat in the liver in people who do not drink heavily. Fatty liver disease, which is often associated with obesity and metabolic syndrome, is now the most common chronic liver disease worldwide. Over time, fat accumulation in the liver and the accompanying inflammation and build-up of scar tissue (fibrosis and cirrhosis) can interfere with normal liver function and lead to liver cancer.
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Cardiovascular Risk in Women with Fatty Liver Disease: Risk is Not Equal Opportunity
Washington, D.C. – Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is associated with significantly higher risk of subsequent cardiovascular events in women, but not in men, according to research presented this week at The Liver Meeting® — held by the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases.

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, commonly called NAFLD, is a group of diseases characterized by an excessive accumulation of fat in the liver, and most often occurring in people who consume little to no alcohol. NAFLD is the most common form of chronic liver disease in children and adults, affecting 80 to 100 million people around the world.

NAFLD has been recognized as a risk factor for cardiovascular incidents – such as heart pain, heart attack, heart failure, irregular and rapid heartbeat and stroke. Cardiovascular disease is generally known to occur less in women, simply because of their female sex. This made researchers at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. interested in exploring if sex‐related differences in cardiovascular events persist in patients with NAFLD.

Alina M. Allen, MD, assistant professor of Medicine at the Mayo Clinic’s Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, and her team compared 3,869 people who were diagnosed with NAFLD between 1997 and 2014 to 15,209 people without the disease (all of which lived in the same community and were matched based on age, gender and pre‐existing cardiovascular diseases).

“We followed this cohort for up to 20 years and examined the number of new cardiovascular events that occurred in men and women after NAFLD diagnosis and their matched counterparts,” explains Dr. Allen. “We noted that in subjects with NAFLD, the risk for these events was higher in women than in men, but contrary to those without the liver disease. In NAFLD, the protective effect of the female sex on cardiovascular risk disappears. Additionally, we noted cardiovascular events started at an earlier age for these women than in the general population.”

These findings suggest that cardiovascular risk assessment in NAFLD should consider sex‐related differences, as women may require more aggressive preventative measures to avoid worse cardiovascular outcomes.

Future studies should assess preventative measures that could lower this risk.

Dr. Allen will present these findings at AASLD’s press conference in Room 103B at Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, DC on Saturday, October 21 at 4 PM. Dr. Allen will present the study entitled “Cardiovascular Risk in NAFLD – Not an Equal Opportunity: Implications for Women’s Health” on Sunday, October 22 at 5:45 PM in room 150. The corresponding abstract (55) can be found in the journal, HEPATOLOGY (link is external).

AASLD is a medical subspecialty society representing clinicians and researchers in liver disease. The work of our members has laid the foundation for the development of drugs used to treat patients with viral hepatitis. Access to care and support of liver disease research are at the center of AASLD’s advocacy efforts.

AASLD is the leading organization of scientists and healthcare professionals committed to preventing and curing liver disease. AASLD was founded in 1950 by a small group of leading liver specialists and has grown to an international society responsible for all aspects of hepatology.

Press releases and additional information about AASLD are available online at

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