When patients come to our office to have blood work done, many are most interested in some of the more well-known signifiers of health and wellness including their cholesterol, blood sugar, and function of vital organs like the kidneys. However, testing for enzyme levels should not be ignored. Enzymes are proteins that assist the body in essential chemical processes, like breaking down food and clotting blood. Abnormal enzyme levels may be an indication of certain health conditions. Today, we wanted to focus specifically on what it means for a person to experience elevated liver enzymes.
There are many potential causes for liver enzyme levels to appear elevated. The first step after receiving this test result is often undergoing a re-checking to ensure that the liver enzyme levels are consistently higher than normal. Some common causes for mild to moderate elevation include viral infections, medications, alcoholic liver disease, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, and hemochromatosis, a disorder that causes too much iron to build up in the body.
The initial evaluation for elevated liver enzymes includes a thorough assessment of your medical history, like what medications you take (including over-the-counter products and supplements) and how much alcohol you consume. The workup often includes additional blood tests for hepatitis and hemochromatosis, as well as a liver ultrasound to assess for fatty liver disease. If your liver enzymes (AST or ALT) are greater than 15 times the upper limit of normal, this would be considered markedly elevated, and your provider would start a more urgent workup.
In order to help people promote good liver health, it is important to avoid taking too much Tylenol/acetaminophen (no greater than 4000 mg/day). Certain supplements (including herbal supplements) that are unregulated by the FDA may also contribute to potential liver damage, so it is important to discuss with your provider before taking them. Decreasing or avoiding alcohol consumption is also recommended to keep your liver healthy. The CDC currently recommends 2 drinks or less per day in men and 1 drink or less per day in women. Maintaining a healthy body weight is crucial for preventing and treating fatty liver disease.
While elevated liver enzyme levels may not necessarily be a cause for concern, it’s important to take a proactive approach to your health and confirm with your healthcare provider that your liver is healthy. For more information or to schedule an appointment with one of our healthcare providers, please contact Family Practice Center today. You can follow us on Facebook for additional health tips, news, and much more.