Attention Baby Boomers: Get Your Hepatitis C Testing

If you were born between the years 1945 and 1965, the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) is suggesting a screening hepatitis C test. To many of you this may sound odd or not applicable however the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 76% of those with Hep C are baby boomers. What does this mean for you?

Hepatitis C is a virus that is mostly transmitted through unscreened blood transfusions (screening for transfusions began in 1992), unscreened organ donation, blood transfer through needles (drugs, improper medical or tattoo handling), unprotected sex with someone who has hepatitis C, and from a positive hepatitis C mother to her baby. It is a stubborn virus in that it can live outside the body at room temperature for up to four days. The concern with the virus is that it can take years for any symptoms or liver damage to occur leaving many to have contracted the disease and not yet realize it. Symptoms may also be quite general such as fatigue, right upper abdominal pain, itchy skin, and nausea however as the liver worsens then liver enzymes increase on blood tests.

The main problem with hepatitis C is that it can become chronic over many years leading to liver cancer, liver cirrhosis and liver failure. Testing requires a simple blood test done at your health care provider’s office or lab and is important as many baby boomers may have partaken in risky behavior when they were younger and have since cleaned up their lifestyle and do not feel sick therefore do not think they are affected. Boomers may have also had a blood transfusion as a child which potentially put them at risk but they do not remember it or have forgotten about the incident.

For those who go on to develop chronic hepatitis, routine monitoring of the liver is important through a liver enzyme blood test and liver ultrasound in order to determine if there is damage or inflammation. Unfortunately there is no vaccination for hep C and the medication treatments can be very helpful but come with a lot of harsh side effects. Lifestyle changes to protect liver health are important such as eliminating all alcohol, being very aware of medications and hormones as they are filtered through the liver, eating healthy, clean foods, keeping blood sugar and cholesterol in the normal range and maintaining a healthy weight. Dietary choices such as leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower, garlic, onions, dandelion root, milk thistle, beets, artichoke and fiber are all known liver friendly foods.

Do not be a statistic with hepatitis C. Please talk with your health care provider about getting this simple test and be pro-active with your health.

References:
1. Garcia, J. (2013). Hepatitis C: USPSTF Recommends All Baby Boomers Be Screened. Web. 24 June, 2013.
Retrieved from http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/806836
2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2012). Hepatitis C FAQs for the Public. Web. 26 June, 2013.
Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/C/cFAQ.htm#statistics

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