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Heart Problems and Eating Disorders

By: Beth Morrisey MLIS - Updated: 17 Sep 2020 | comments*Discuss
 
Eating Disorders anorexia bulimia

Eating disorders, even those that last only a short while, bring with them major risks for long-term health damage. Anorexia (in which an individual severely limits calories and in effect starves him/herself), bulimia (in which an individual routinely binges on a huge amount of food and then purges through induced vomiting or the use of laxatives or diuretics), and binge eating disorder (in which an individual binges but does not purge), are the three most common types of eating disorders. All of these eating disorders present a variety of long-term health risks, not the least of which is possible heart problems.

Heart Problems and Anorexia
Anorexics restrict their caloric intake and very often the risk of starving themselves. The long-term health effects of anorexia, then, are akin to the health risks of starvation. Just a few of these risks include dry hair, nails and skin, a loss of hair or nails, anaemia, a loss of muscle mass, a loss of menstrual periods, joint problems/pain and osteoporosis/brittle bones.

Anorexics may also become extremely sensitive to cold and feel cold all the time, with blue fingers, toes and/or lips to match. In an effort to keep themselves warm, their bodies often sprout fine white hairs known as lanugo.

When anorexia has become this severe, the heart is often damaged. Not only is there not enough body fat to keep internal organs like the heart protected, but anaemia, which weakens the blood, and the poor circulation which results in a lower body temperature means that the heart is unable to pump and circulate blood as effectively as it might otherwise. The loss of muscle mass can also apply to the heart, meaning that the muscles of the heart can physically weaken, and an overall drop in blood pressure and pulse can contribute to slower breathing rates. Unfortunately, if not remedied, these risks can lead to death.

Heart Problems and Bulimia
Unlike anorexics, bulimics run the risk of health problems that are related to excessive eating and frequent purging. Many bulimics tend to be slightly overweight due to their binges and frequently suffer from sore throats and dental issues such as swollen glands, eroded tooth enamel and cavities due to vomiting. The constant cycle of binging and purging may also lead to electrolyte imbalances in bulimics which means that the required amounts of sodium and potassium are either not met or are over-supplied. This imbalance can lead to damage of the heart muscle and/or heart attacks which may result in death.

Heart Problems and Binge Eating Disorder
Individuals suffering from binge eating disorder run the risk of a wide variety of health conditions and diseases which can contribute to heart problems. Excessive eating typically means that binge eaters are overweight or clinically obese and thus susceptible to high blood pressure, high cholesterol and heart disease as well as many other serious diseases and health risks. Though these complications may not result in death as often as complications from anorexia or bulimia, they are no less serious.

Eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder all bring with them the possibility of heart damage, heart disease and other heart problems. Further information on health problems and eating disorders can be obtained from a GP, private mental health professional or from the Eating Disorders Association and/or National Centre for Eating Disorders.

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Can I please get some advice on physical recovery from bulimia? I’m good on the mental/ emotional health issues. I was sick for about two years and I haven’t purged in just under 6 weeks. I’ve noticed improvements in my health (throat no longer hurts, less mucous buildup after meals, no longer feel that food may accidentally come back up, I feel WAY less anxious). I still haven’t recovered from heart arrhythmias and I still feel somewhat dizzy after larger meals (though a potassium supplement always helps to dissipate this feeling). Is there anything else I should be doing to help with the dizziness? Should I quit all exercise? (I just do a little, mostly walks). Should I add something particular to my diet? How long can I expect these symptoms to last?
Kate - 17-Sep-20 @ 3:14 AM
Butterfly84... Unfortunately, if you do not eat then your body will continue to defy you. The stomach distention will eventually reduce if you eat a balanced diet. The distention of your stomach is your body fighting to protect you from doing it more damage. Unless you feed your body then you will always have problems and the older you become the worse your problems become. There is no advice apart from getting your body back on track by nourishing it and caring for it as it cares for you.
KerryH - 22-Mar-18 @ 3:52 PM
Hi, I have suffered from Anorexia for a long time. More than 12 years to be precise, In the last 2 years, it hit its peak. I am so miserable. I co-exist on 350 cals max (per night, same time each night, powdered soup with no actual nutritional value in liquid with no 'bits',I never chew and have developed a disgustingly horrible swirl spitting habits when cooking for others to taste but not ingest alongside this) My GP gave me blood results last week telling me my folic acid levels, B, Protein, Calcium levels etc were at rock bottom, I have all but lost my periods/menstrual cycle, I am drained all the time but my stomach is causing me so much distress, in the last two weeks the hard protruding distention is unreal, I look and feel like budha, I have no confidence, i feel enormous, it is very much there and very obvious, i havent increased my fluids and dont shy away from my daily exercise rituals. I feel enormous and cant get my head around whats going on hence me hoping someone here might be able to help shed light on this. I am on referal for a specialist - again, but to date nothing detracts from this way of life but this body image i see,feel is seriously getting me down to the point i want to see nobody and go nowhere, any advice? I am 33 years of age.
Butterfly84 - 20-Mar-18 @ 3:23 PM
Hi I suffer from anorexia. Im at the point where i want to recover form it. But my counselor wants me to go to hospital and im all for it. But im not sicken enough to go to melbourne and also not a resident of SA. Which has recently came in cause iv bee their before. What do you suggest to Andi
Andi - 14-Nov-16 @ 10:52 AM
@klowee - none of these are good ways to try to lose weight quickly. If you are trying to lose weight, then you should do this through a healthy balanced diet, otherwise you could do yourself some significant harm.
EatingDisorderExpert - 6-Jul-15 @ 2:37 PM
hey whats the best way to lose 20 kg in 3 weeks? ive been fasting, smoking ice, taking laxatives ?
klowee - 4-Jul-15 @ 8:44 AM
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