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Which Eating Disorder Damages the Heart?

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Audrey Hepburn, Kristy Henrich, Nicole Richie, Sally Field, Jane Fonda, Mary-Kate Olsen, Tracy Gold all have one thing in common besides being in the spotlight. Some of these women died of heart failure or struggled with numerous health problems due to one major eating disorder. Other every-day women who are writers, clerks, teachers, mothers, teens, grandmothers share the same disease.

ANOREXIA NERVOSA is a potentially life-threatening eating disorder that is characterized by self-starvation and excessive weight loss. It puts an enormous stress on the body, especially the heart. "The cardiac tolls are acute and significant, and set in quickly," says Diane Mickley, MD, co-president of the National Eating Disorders Association and the founder and director of the Wilkins Center for Eating Disorders in Greenwich . Other eating disorders like bulimia , binge eating , or orthorexia (excessive focus on eating healthy foods) may also cause heart problems over time. Of course, there are other complications of anorexia such as osteoporosis, hormonal changes and psychological to name a few.


The heart is a muscle. During starvation, it begins to get smaller and weaker like the other muscles in the body. Blood pressure may drop and blood flow is reduced increasing a chance for heart failure. Cholesterol increases.

Add a Comment4 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

I feel like this is misleading because Anorexia is certainly not the only eating disorder that damages the heart. Bulimia can also cause damage, especially when certain purging methods are used. Dying from an electrolyte imbalance is a very real threat with bulimia.

March 29, 2011 - 3:23pm
(reply to Anonymous)

True, Anonymous new, there are many, many other causes that damage the heart. This article is just placing a spotlight on anorexia to uplift its awareness and dangerous consequences. Bulimia also has its risks and problems. That is a good topic to review in relation to the heart. Thanks for that idea! You are more than welcome to browse EmpowHer for bulimia related issues... :)

April 8, 2011 - 6:16pm
EmpowHER Guest

Anorexia can certainly cause Heart problems, such as mitral valve prolapse, abnormal heart rhythms and heart failure. There are also chances of death from this disorder.
Anorexia Nervosa Eating Disorders

February 10, 2011 - 10:29pm
EmpowHER Guest

I have been told that heart problems can set in very quickly with anorexia, as short as a couple of months.

September 2, 2009 - 2:16pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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