If I told you that by keeping a certain organ healthy, you would be able to feel younger, look healthier and improve your overall lifespan, would you believe me? Well you better, because there is such an organ, and it is your liver.

While there is plenty of chatter about heart disease and the importance of lowering cholesterol levels, very rarely do you hear about benefits of a healthy liver. And so, in 2015, I suggest that we make a pledge together to keep our livers healthy.

Let’s start by talking about what the liver actually does and why it’s so important. This big organ that sits in the middle of your abdomen helps with the metabolism of proteins and fats. It helps the body to regulate sugar and it filters our blood, working to eliminate many impurities. The liver is always working.

The liver is often called to work in overdrive, especially during a woman’s pregnancy. When we give in to excessive weight gain and bad habits either inherited or taken on during our lifetime, we force our livers to work extra. The good thing about the liver, however, is that doctors are able to monitor the quality of its performance. Through a simple blood test, doctors can analyze liver enzymes, and through an ultrasound or type of X-ray, they can monitor the size and condition of the organ.

Now, because the liver is one of the main organs charged with clearing pollutants, there are many chemicals that can derail its efficacy, therefore limiting its performance. Alcohol and certain medications are among the major culprits, especially when combined. The dangers of mixing acetaminophen (Tylenol) and alcohol are well-documented. When people inadvertently consume both, the liver is vulnerable to developing impurities, potentially damaging its ability to function.

When the liver becomes dysfunctional, we begin to build up impurities in our blood stream, our sugar metabolism levels are altered, and our hormones which regulate energy levels and mood are affected. If the liver becomes so toxic, or sick to the point where it is completely non-functional, drastic medical measures, like a transplant, are needed.

While there are diseases like hepatitis, as well as bacteria and viruses which can directly affect the liver, the most damage done to the organ is usually a reflection of our lifestyles. It is important to protect the liver, and the best and easiest way to do this is to focus on ways to improve your lifestyle.

Some of these suggestions may sound cliché, but I promise you, they will all have a positive effect on your liver. Start by exercising, and not just cardio or weight lifting. Work in relaxation exercises like meditation or yoga as well. Improving your sleep patterns will not only allow your body proper rest and recovery time, but paired with exercise, it will help boost your immune system. Make changes in your diet to make it more balanced and healthy. Start by cutting back on processed meats and start including foods that are high in fiber, herbs, and colored fruits and vegetables that are low on the glycemic index, like blueberries.

I truly believe that by making these adjustments and adhering to these lifestyle changes, we will make good on our pledge to keep our livers healthy. We will also greatly lower, if not eliminate, our risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes, or chronic hypertension.