Physician pointing to miniature replica of human liver.

The rate of death due to liver disease is spiking in the U.S., according to a recent study by the British Medical Journal. The study says the death rate of chronic liver damage jumped 65 percent from 1999 to 2016.

The highest mortality rate was among young adults ranging from 25-34 because of alcohol abuse, the study stated.

Michael Volk, MD, a liver specialist at Loma Linda University Health, says throughout his career he has been startled by how alcohol liver disease, which usually impacts a person’s health after 30 years, is seen in some patients younger than 29.

“It is incredible to see a 20-something-year-old who has end-stage liver disease from drinking, which means they likely started drinking heavily in their early teens,” Volk says. 

He adds that majority of his patients drink well above the problem drinking limit.

“80 percent of my patients, they drink so much that you would not even fathom. Like a 12-pack a day, 24-pack a day, one liter of liquor, or two liters of liquor a day,” he says. “But unfortunately, some people develop liver disease from only moderate alcohol consumption.”

Volk says abstaining from alcohol is best in preventing disease and offers three tips that could save your life.

Know your genetics. Family history, and in the near future genetic testing, can let you know if you are more susceptible to liver disease. This can be useful as you navigate your healthcare with your provider.

Find new activities. Drinking alcohol can be a leisurely or social activity for many people. Volk recommends substituting a more healthy activity, such as exercising. It can be great for the liver and also works as a new activity outlet.

Use resources. Volk says he encourages those who struggle with alcohol abuse to seek out resources to get needed help before it is too late. Often, it’s too late once symptoms of the disease present. Our society may also put stigmas on finding help with alcohol addiction. If you are struggling, do not let even the possibility of perceived embarrassment stop you from getting the help you need to save your life. Reach out to our experts if you or a loved one are struggling with alcohol abuse.

Loma Linda University Health Transplant Institute treats a wide range of liver diseases with liver transplants, managing illness with personalized support and therapies. To learn more about our kidney, heart, liver and pancreas programs, visit lluh.org/transplant-institute or call 800-548-3790.