Anorexia and Anemia

Friday, May 13  •  


Anorexia Nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by extreme restriction of nutritional intake. No bodily system can function as it should without the vitamins and nutrients that proper food and hydration provide. As such, anorexia can have long-term consequences on the body if left untreated.

Anorexia and the Cardiovascular System

The circulatory/cardiovascular system, used to carry blood and lymph throughout the body, is heavily affected when the body does not receive the nutrients it needs. This system includes the heart, blood, and blood vessels such as arteries, veins, and capillaries. Through these systems, nutrients are transported to the body’s cells and waste is transported from the body’s cells. 

When an individual has anorexia, the cardiovascular system is weakened. The heart muscle may become thinner and less efficient in pumping blood throughout the body. In addition, low levels of iron can lead to anemia, which is a condition where there are not enough red blood cells to carry oxygen throughout the body.

Anorexia and Anemia

Anemia is a cardiovascular consequence that can be caused by a lack of iron in the diet, which is common in individuals with anorexia. Anemia can also be caused by blood loss, which can occur due to gastrointestinal problems associated with anorexia nervosa. If left untreated, anemia can lead to fatigue, shortness of breath, and lightheadedness. Anemia also puts one at an increased risk for coronary heart disease, hypertension, and other cardiac complications.

According to a study in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Food Science, “21 to 39% of those that struggle with Anorexia Nervosa are diagnosed with anemia”. This relationship is due to the nutritional deficiencies that result due to food and fluid restriction.

In another study, researchers looked deeper into the relationship between anemia and anorexia and found 5 Anorexia Nervose related causes of anemia including:

  • Bone marrow malfunction
  • Deprivation of iron, vitamin B12, or folate
  • Hemolysis of the rupture of red blood cells
  • Loss of hemoglobin
  • Inflammation

Anemia and Anorexia Recovery

While there is no doubt that anemia is a concerning side effect of Anorexia Nervosa, there is hope for a stable nutritional rehabilitation after a length of time.

It is always concerning when the body does not receive the nutrients and vitamins it needs. The body is an amazing machine, however, it does need proper care to run. The human body cannot perform if receiving restricted food and fluid intake.

If you or someone you know is struggling with anorexia, it is important to seek professional help. Anorexia Nervosa is a serious eating disorder that can have long-term consequences on the body, including the cardiovascular system. With proper treatment, however, individuals with anorexia can recover and live healthy lives.