Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is an emerging novel cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factor. It’s prevalence is increasing globally. However, there is paucity in the evidence showing the association between NAFLD and CVD risk in primary care setting. Therefore, the objectives of this study were to determine the prevalence and factors associated with NAFLD among patients with ≥1 risk factor for NAFLD or CVD attending primary care clinics.
A cross sectional study was conducted in two clinics at a university primary care centre. Patients aged ≥18 years with ≥1 risk factor for NAFLD or CVD were recruited. Participants with history of established liver disease or chronic alcohol use were excluded. Socio-demographics, clinical related data, anthropometric measurements and blood investigation results were recorded in a proforma. Diagnosis of NAFLD was made using abdominal ultrasound. The 10-year CVD risk was calculated using the general Framingham Risk Score (FRS). Multiple logistic regression (MLogR) was performed to identify independent factors associated with NAFLD.
A total of 263 participants were recruited. The mean age was 52.3 ± 14.7 years old. Male and female were equally distributed. Majority of the participants were Malays (79.8%). The overall prevalence of NAFLD was 54.4% (95%CI 48,60%). Participants in the high FRS category have higher prevalence of NAFLD (65.5%), followed by those in the moderate category (55.4%) and the low category (46.3%), p = 0.025. From MLogR, independent factors associated with NAFLD were being employed (OR = 2.44, 95%CI 1.26,4.70, p = 0.008), obesity with BMI ≥27.5 (OR = 2.89, 95%CI 1.21,6.91, p = 0.017), elevated fasting glucose ≥5.6 mmol/L (OR = 2.79, 95%CI 1.44,5.43, p = 0.002), ALT ≥34 U/L (OR = 3.70, 95%CI 1.85,7.44, p < 0.001) and high FRS category (OR = 2.82, 95%CI 1.28,6.23, p = 0.010).
NAFLD is highly prevalent among patients with ≥1 risk factor for NAFLD or CVD in these primary care clinics. Patients who were obese, have elevated fasting glucose, elevated ALT and in the high FRS category were more likely to have NAFLD. This study underscores the importance of targeted screening for NAFLD in those with risk factors in primary care. Aggressive intervention must be executed in those with NAFLD in order to reduce CVD complications and risk of progression.