In patients with metabolic syndrome health problems like diabetes and stroke is at risk for heart disease events, NAFLD contributes to early atherosclerosis and its progression, independent of traditional cardiovascular risk factors. 'This indicates that NAFLD is a precursor of metabolic syndrome. It follows that the diagnosis of fatty liver is extremely important and therefore a thorough cardiovascular and metabolic work-up and strict monitoring of CVD or metabolic complications are needed in the clinical management of NAFLD,' Pais noted in the paper published in Journal of Hepatology.
The team undertook a large retrospective study of close to 6,000 patients between 1995 and 2012 to assess whether NAFLD is incidental to or is the cause of atherosclerosis of the carotid arteries. Using the Fatty Liver Index (FLI) a well-validated biomarker, researchers observed that fatty liver is associated with thickness in the major blood vessels in the neck -- a pre-atherosclerotic problem that predicts heart disease events. Thickness in the blood vessels increases proportionally with FLI, and this association is independent of traditional cardiometabolic risk factors -- like diabetes, heart disease or stroke. Futher, patients with fatty liver were more likely to develop in the plaques resulting in thickness in the blood vessels over time.
Fatty liver disease at baseline predicted the occurrence of carotid plaques independent of age, sex, type 2 diabetes, tobacco use, and other heart disease risk factors.
Strict monitoring of cardiovascular disease recommended when managing non alcoholic fatty liver disease, the researchers suggested.