Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease
Ben Goodman has his father’s brown eyes, dark hair and a love for history and politics. But this staff assistant for a member of the U.S. House of Representatives also has the beginnings of a disease that killed his father: non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).
Ben’s father, Michael died at the age of 51 from a progressive form of NAFLD called non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH).
NAFLD is the most common cause of chronic liver disease in the United States and while it is largely associated with lifestyle factors, such as obesity, there is also a strong genetic component. According to a study by the University of California, San Diego, researchers, family members of children diagnosed with NAFLD are at high risk for the disease and should be tested for it as part of a routine medical examination, even if they don’t show symptoms,
Throughout Ben’s teen years, he watched as his father experienced bouts of encephalopathy, numerous hospital stays and hepatic coma, ultimately dying when Ben was 17.
Losing his father at such a young age took an enormous toll on Ben. It also took a toll on his mother who not only had to hold the household together and take care of her only child, but commute from Maine to Indianapolis where her husband was being treated.
Unfortunately, Ben was also diagnosed with fatty liver disease in 2005 at the age of 15. But he manages his disease by living a healthy lifestyle. He exercises every day and follows a healthy diet and has lost 60 pounds since his diagnosis.
“I am happy that I can work to change the course of this disease – and do it without prescription medication,” says Ben.
“At the time of my diagnosis, I realized that I stood at a fork in the road – down one path was my future if I didn’t take steps to prevent it: the build-up of toxins in my blood that would cause confusion, the buildup of abdominal fluid that would need to be drained, the loss of muscle mass and a place in line for a liver transplant.”
Says Ben: “Down the other path was the promise of a healthy and full life, one that I have the potential to control. And one where my children would be spared from watching me slowly die and also be spared from contracting the disease. That’s the life I wanted for myself.”
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