HRI Blog...

Feb. 7, 2014 —

What You Don’t Know CAN Hurt You  

What we don’t know, costs American's billions of dollars and thousands of lives each year.

Billions are being spent caring for chronic liver related diseases that are preventable.  Ignorance about the important role the liver plays in converting the food we eat into hundreds of life sustaining body functions is causing untold suffering and an enormous burden to our national health care system.

Who is responsible for this lack of basic knowledge?  

Information about the liver has been absent from school curricula for decades. Ignorance is a major contributor to the unintentional development of liver related illnesses later in life. Preventable chronic diseases that depend on healthful selection of foods include: diabetes, obesity, fatty liver, high cholesterol, atherosclerosis, strokes and cardiovascular disease.   

We have all heard messages promoting diets that include the basic food groups, vegetables, leaner cuts of meat in smaller portions, and fewer sugary drinks for decades.  Most people are aware that fatty foods can add inches to their waist lines.  What they don’t know is that fatty liver disease is caused by an accumulation of excess fats in liver cells, the chemical converters in their liver.  Fats cause cells to swell up and die.  Dead liver cells are called cirrhosis.  Add a few glasses of wine a day.  Breathe in pollutants and possible exposure to the hepatitis viruses through tattoos or body piercings. Add exposure to hepatitis through unprotected sex, more dead liver cells…more cirrhosis.

However, information to enable everyone to make healthful informed decisions about their own health is missing.  Sadly, individuals unknowingly continue laying the groundwork for future chronic debilitating diseases.

Someone you love could end up with too few healthy liver cells causing the liver to shut down. When your liver shuts down, so do you. Tragically, this can happen without warning of trouble as the liver is a non complaining organ.

How can we expect individuals to make healthful food and lifestyle choices when they are totally unaware of the impact bad choices can have on their future health? We cannot change what we don’t know. 

Chubby babies, overweight children and obese adolescents should set off an alarm that liver health education must begin on day one of our lives.  We have made sure our astronauts have a healthy diet while circling the earth.  We need to put as much emphasis on helping children to know why and how to protect their precious liver.  By making healthy food and lifestyle choices as children, many debilitating liver related chronic illnesses could be prevented. 

Let’s fill the gap.  Surveys show that individuals who learn about the liver are motivated to avoid liver damaging behaviors. Liver health education is most effective when it begins in pre K and continues through high school.  Where else can we reach a large captive audience when they are receptive to learning?

An investment in prevention through liver health and wellness education can begin saving lives and healthcare dollars today.

For additional information or if you have questions, contact

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Dec. 6, 2013 —

Your Partner for Life – Your Liver  

Most American’s don’t realize that diseases they hear about every day including diabetes, obesity, high cholesterol, cardiovascular disease, and strokes are liver related and preventable.  It’s not too late to learn how to bring them under control and to share new liver health information with children at an early age to put them on the right road to a healthier future.

Unfortunately, the liver is its own worst enemy. This complex chemical powerhouse functions silently supporting hundreds of life sustaining body functions 24 hours a day. However, this miraculous non complaining organ can be badly damaged without any signs, symptoms or trouble.

The food, drugs and drinks we ingest, the air we breathe and chemicals we put on our skin all have to be processed though the liver. Food is the fuel needed by the liver to provide energy, to make strong bones and muscles, to make immune factors to protect us from the germs and viruses that surround us and help us get well when we are sick.  It makes clotting factors to keep us from bleeding to death from a small cut and removes the toxins from the drugs, alcohol and foods we eat and the fumes we breathe in every day.

Deterioration of any one of the liver’s functions can cause life-threatening health problems or death.  Like any high performance engine, the liver needs good food in reasonable amounts and clean air to support its role in metabolism and detoxification of alcohol and drugs, disinfectants, fertilizers, pollutants in paint thinners, bug sprays, and fighting off  germs and viruses that invade our bodies.

Your liver helps to build strong muscles and bones and provides the energy you need to function 24/7; it makes immune factors to protect you from other peoples’ diseases (flu, colds, pneumonia, etc.) and helps you to get well when you are sick. It produces bile to break up the fats you eat that contain vitamins and minerals essential to bone health so your body can absorb them. Bile also carries the toxins away that upset the balance of hormones (like estrogen) the liver produces needed to maintain a healthy body.

Where the trouble begins is when you overload the liver with sugar, starches and fatty foods.  Excess fats infiltrate liver cells, the workers in your personal powerhouse and cause them to swell up and die.  Dead liver cells are called cirrhosis.  Excess of sugars (glucose) that can’t be used by the cells for energy is stored as body fat.  

Non alcoholic fatty liver disease is a major contributor to mortality due to liver disease and cardiovascular disease.  Severely damaged livers cannot process proteins properly and waste products may build up and affect the brain. Medications needed for treatment of diseases such as AIDS, pneumonia, etc. cannot be properly processed in a damaged liver.

The good news is that four tenets of good health can make a difference: don’t smoke or gain an excessive amount of weight, exercise and eat a healthy diet. Prevention begins on day one. It is not too late to improve your liver health.  

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Oct. 3, 2013 —

Corporate Executives Buy Into Promoting Liver Health

American’s bad habits cost corporations billions of dollars for an estimated 75% of health care costs.  Tragically, many of the health issues including obesity, fatty liver, high cholesterol, diabetes, hepatitis, cardiovascular diseases, to say nothing of drug and alcohol abuse are preventable.  The body’s Traffic Cop for all these diseases is your silent partner — your liver. As a non-complaining organ, your liver has been ignored, misunderstood and abused for decades. Identified as the culprit in alcohol abuse and a filter, little else was known about its complexities related to 100 different liver diseases.

The domino effect related to the lack of federal funding for research in the mid 1970’s has resulted in little or no information about this miraculous multi-tasking organ has been available in schools or for the public. For example, only 3 out of 300 Maryland teachers reported learning about the liver in their own educational background.  A lack of knowledge is the livers’ worst enemy. How can we expect individuals to protect it from harm when most don’t know where it is or what it does? 

A review of numerous wellness programs identifies millions are being spent on providing gym equipment being used by a small percentage of employees.  Lunch and Learn programs create awareness but do they motivate individuals to change their behaviors?  Lectures, posters and brochures tell us what we should eat.  Are we winning the battle of the bulge or spinning our wheels?

Commonsensical messages using analogies about liver functions that anyone can relate to in their daily lives have encouraged medical students at Virginia’s Commonwealth University Medical School to take better care of  their own liver and provided communication techniques to engage their patients’ to act on what they had learned.

Dr. Rob Harshman, Medical Director at Southern Company in Atlanta, GA, arranged for 9,000 employees to view a DVD promoting liver health and wellness messages that I provided.  Impressed with the non-threatening, motivational approach to liver health he said, “I am happy to hear there is growing momentum to educate people in protecting their liver through healthy lifestyles.”

The liver, with thousands of liver cells each serving as our food processor, detoxifier and chemical factory converts the food we eat into hundreds of life sustaining functions that keep us alive and functioning 24/7.  An overabundance of fat (triglycerides) accumulates in tiny sacs within the liver cell and can ultimately lead to scarring of the liver called cirrhosis. Continued assault by too much fat in your diet eventually will diminish the number of healthy liver cells vital to keeping you alive and functioning each day. 

The first sign of trouble may be fatigue indicating that the liver, with few healthy cells remaining, is beginning to shut down. I ask  “Would you ever put beer or wine in your car’s gas tank?”  What do you put in your engine, your liver, to keep it functioning efficiently.  The toxins in beer and alcohol, fatty foods and pollutants in the air can destroy liver cells, once again putting your health and even your life in jeopardy.

Simple but effective messages empower individuals to make informed food and lifestyle choices.  It begins with understanding the importance of your miraculous, non-complaining liver.  It usually gives no warning of trouble until the damage is far advanced. It is up to you to take control

The time is now to cut down on fatty foods, OTC drugs, fatty foods and give your liver a break.  For additional information or if you have questions please contact

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March 1, 2013 —

In Memorium

We were deeply saddened to learn of the recent loss of former Surgeon General Dr. C Everett Koop. He was a dear friend and supporter of liver health and wellness, an outspoken advocate for promoting organ donation and warning the nation about the hazards of smoking cigarettes. In the early days of promoting liver health, Dr. Koop always responded to requests for participation in educational events, interviews on TV and radio, sharing the spotlight with Thelma King Thiel in efforts to promote liver health education.  Often described as the most active surgeon general in memory, Dr. Koop will long be remembered for his thoughtful concern for promoting public health and his open door policy welcoming volunteers as well as professionals to share concerns and ideas with him.  He has left an impressive legacy for promoting the health of our nation. Hepatitis Foundation educates patients, healthcare professionals, community leaders, and the public about prevention and treatment of viral hepatitis and other preventable liver related diseases.

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August 2, 2012 —

Guest Blog

Running for Charity... by Tracy Cesaretti

When choosing to run my first marathon, I was torn between running it on my own or running for a charity – in the end, I choose to run for a charity.  I made the right decision as it meant so much more when I crossed the finish line in October 2010. 

Originally, I was nervous about hitting my fundraising minimum – but after sending out 1 email; I realized that wouldn’t be an issue as I was already within $50 of my goal.  Between email and social media fundraising is so easy and people are so used to giving that people normally do it immediately upon receiving the email and all of a sudden you are on your way.  

Running for a charity allowed me to think about the person I was running for during all of my long training runs as well as continue to be motivated by thinking of those who aren’t lucky enough to be in my shoes and able to train for a marathon.  The morning of the race, I was nervous and emotional about would I be able to finish – I had put a photo of the person who I was running for on the back of my bib number and had chosen to wear that persons favorite color on race day.  As the race began, I enjoyed the city sites but as I got to mile 15 and beyond – I pulled from the strength of my family member that wasn’t there with me and their photo and used them to remind me that I can finish this as they were there with me in spirit and were pulling me along as I hit spots where I just wanted to drop out of the race.   I had tears as I crossed the finish line knowing that I had just completed my first marathon.    

In the end, I was so happy that I had chosen to run for a charity as it helped me emotionally finish the race and made the day that much more special for me.  The best part, was knowing that I had contributed funds that will hopefully allow someone else to not lose a family member to that horrible disease. 

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July 25, 2012 —

Guest Blog

Kristen Felicione: Being a current Master of Public Health student and an undergraduate biology major, I conclude my knowledge and awareness of many common diseases and their associated risk factors is greater than the average person. But after just one meeting with Thelma and the HFI staff, I realized my assumed proficiency was lacking in one major area, liver health. What did I know about the liver before coming to HFI? I knew the liver acts as a filter for toxins when drinking alcohol and cirrhosis is a disease often associated with alcohol. Why didn’t I know more? Shouldn’t I have learned this at some point during my 5 years of biology and health schooling? I called friends and family, and asked them a few simple liver questions. I quickly realized liver education, and therefore liver knowledge, is greatly lacking in our country.

I am a huge advocate of education. People are not stupid; there are reasons people conduct certain behaviors. The most important thing we can do at HFI is ensure people are making educated decisions; not only supply information, but the information must be correct and current. It must be stated it is not anyone’s fault they have made unhealthy decisions; there was nothing out there portraying the risks of their actions! Targeting children and young adults with educational programs is imperative; they can still change behaviors easily. The goal of our programs must be short and long term, a short term increase in awareness of the liver, and a long term change of risky behaviors. It is imperative to bring prevention programs into schools and universities in order to decrease liver damaging behaviors before they become epidemic.

Kristen is a Masters of Public Health student at The George Washington University, concentrating in Epidemiology. She graduated from SUNY Geneseo in 2010 with a BS in Biology. Kristen currently works as the Assistant Health Outreach Coordinator at GWU.

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July 20, 2012 —

If Only I Knew Then What I Know Now!

An estimated 75% of hepatitis C (HCV) infected individuals are Baby Boomers - many due to risky behaviors that exposed them to hepatitis. Now in the prime of their life they realize that choices made about snorting cocaine or injecting drugs have damaged their liver and threaten their life.

Lack of education decades ago about liver health and the important role it plays in one’s ability to stay alive, failed to alert individuals about liver related preventable diseases such as alcohol abuse, diabetes, and especially hepatitis viruses unknown at that time. The alarming increase recently in young adults being HCV infected called attention to our failure to promote prevention of liver related diseases in schools. How can children make healthful lifestyle choices when they lack the information about liver health and how to avoid liver damaging activities? Teachers lack information and tools to help stop the carnage caused by liver damaging risk behaviors. 

Will our teens be facing the same dilemma in years to come that baby boomers face today?  Liver health education can save lives each day by preventing liver related diseases including hepatitis, substance abuse, fatty liver, stroke and heart attacks.

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May 16, 2012 —

What Does Obesity Have To Do With Hepatitis

“Obesity” has joined “hepatitis” as hot topics reaching out to “Baby Boomers Plus”.

Obesity and hepatitis can lead to scarring of the liver called cirrhosis. Both are slowly progressing diseases that silently attack the liver.  Why is that important? Your liver is your internal power source that keeps you alive 24/7 converting the food you eat into hundreds of life-sustaining  body functions.   When your liver shuts down, so do you.

Are you as careful about what you put into your personal engine – your liver – as you are about the fuel you put in the engine of your car? Choosing the right foods for your liver to process is essential to living a healthy life.

On the other hand, hepatitis viruses ”invisible to the eye”, may have entered your body through your skin or mucous membranes as long ago as 20 or 30 years.  Needle sticks, tattoo needles, body piercings, IV drug use and even through unprotected sex with an infected partner could have allowed these insidious viruses to enter your body. Once they gain entre they travel through your blood stream to your liver where they settle in replicating themselves and killing liver cells.

Don’t take a chance!  Check your liver out.  A simple blood test can tell you if your liver is in trouble or if it is infected.  A simple blood test could be the life preserver your liver needs to alert you to the need to take care better of it.  You must ask your healthcare provider to test you for viral as it is not a routine part of your physical examination.

Get tested and if needed, treated and rid of this insidious disease.

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May 3, 2012 —

Focusing Prevention Where it is Needed Most

Surveys conducted by the Hepatitis Foundation International identify a critical knowledge gap among teachers. Only three out of 300 Maryland teachers admitted learning about the liver in their own educational experience. Understanding the importance of the liver to one's health and life itself is primarily due to the lack of liver health in school curricula for decades. Knowing that prevention depends on individuals making personal health choices. We can not expect individuals to know why and how to avoid liver damaging activities without understanding the vital role the liver plays in processing practically everything we eat, breathe and absorb through our skin Food is the fuel the liver processes. Our choices of fatty foods, sugary drinks and chemicals in drugs and alcohol can damage liver cells having a devastating impact on this miraculous non complaining organ.

The high incidence of chronic diseases including heart disease, obesity, fatty liver, stroke, diabetes and viral hepatitis among disadvantaged communities is having a devastating impact on the future health of individuals of all ages. The fact that all of these health conditions are liver related and preventable provides a wonderful opportunity to bring these chronic illnesses under control, saving lives and healthcare dollars. We can reach our most vulnerable multiracial population in schools beginning in preschool throughout the entire educational system, By creating a well informed pool of educators, social workers, counselors and others in leadership roles with effective communication techniques and educational tools about liver health and wellness, we can reach thousands of children.

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February 29, 2012 —

Are You the One Out of Every 33 Baby Boomers
Who Is Hepatitis C Infected?

Were you born between 1945 and 1965?  Why not give yourself a Lifesaving Birthday Present today? Even if you feel fine you could be harboring hepatitis C viruses (HCV) that are silently killing liver cells, the employees in your personal chemical converter and power source — your liver.

Did you know that liver cells act like computer chips responsible for jump starting hundreds of life maintaining body functions? hepatitis C viruses invade liver cells, killing them and forming scar tissue, called cirrhosis. This could be going on for 20, 30 or more years without your knowledge. Unfortunately, the liver does not have an early warning system to let you know this carnage is going on until your power plant starts to shut down. When your liver goes... so do you.

A simple blood test could be your personal Life Preserver and the best present you can give yourself.  Check off the list of risks you may have taken over the years several decades.

  • Had a blood transfusion before 1992
  • Shared razosr, toothbrushes, nail clippers, needles or other sharp instruments
  • Used I V drugs/ needles/paraphernalia
  • Had dialysis treatments
  • Had unprotected rough sex

No one but you and your doctor needs to know.  If you are infected, treatments are available with an impressive cure rate.

Be your best friend and get tested today.

Happy next birthday.  I am sure your liver will be happy too.

Call 1-800-891-0707 for confidential referral to specialists in your area.  We are here to help.

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February 20, 2012

Nurse Practitioners, PAs, and Substance Abuse
Counselors Lead the Way to Baby Boomers

Hundreds of mid level healthcare providers, the gate keepers in outreach efforts to encourage Baby Boomers to be screened for viral hepatitis, sharpen their skills and knowledge by attending Hepatitis Foundation International’ s Viral hepatitis Summits. 

Renowned experts in liver health and viral hepatitis provide cutting edge information on new treatments, diagnosis and management issues related to depression and side effects. In addition, they learn new motivational techniques to encourage individuals to participate in their own healthcare and management.

“Our Baltimore Viral hepatitis Summit was the best we have ever had on this critical issue,” said Elizabeth Bohle, MSN, APRN, Adult Viral hepatitis Prevention Coordinator (AVHPC) in Maryland.

Additional Viral hepatitis Summits are being co-sponsored by State Health Department AVHPC’s in Milwaukee, WI; LasVegas, NE; Detroit, MI; Kansas City, KS; Boston, MA; Orlando, FL; Orlando, FL and Miami, FL.

It is a win – win situation for all involved.  Just let us know if you are interested in have a Summit in your area.

“These summits fill existing gaps in education providing unique and critically-needed communication techniques about viral hepatitis and the liver,” wrote  Dr. Kathleen Koechlin, AVHPC  in Columbus, Ohio.

“Because ‘baby boomers’ have the highest prevalence for hepatitis C, a one-time screening is likely to identify a large number of infected individuals who without recognition and treatment are likely to develop serious, life-threatening liver disease, leading to premature death,” said Dr. Raymond Koff, hepatologist at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine and Vice-Chair of Hepatitis Foundation International.       
Join our efforts to encourage Baby Boomers to be screened for hepatitis C to stop the spread of this insidious disease and to help them find renewed health with new and effective treatments.

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