The largest organ inside your body, your liver performs hundreds of vital functions. It converts food into fuel, processes cholesterol, clears harmful toxins from the blood, and makes proteins that help your blood clot, to name a few. But an alarming number of Americans have a potentially dangerous accumulation of fat inside their livers. Known as nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), this condition is a leading cause of chronic liver disease in the United States—and an increasingly recognized contributor to heart disease.
"NAFLD increases the risk of heart disease independent of other traditional risk factors such as high blood pressure and cholesterol," says Dr. Kathleen Corey, director of the Fatty Liver Disease Clinic at Massachusetts General Hospital. Among people with NAFLD, heart disease is the top killer, accounting for more than 25% of deaths.