Around one in every 200 American women suffer from anorexia nervosa, a life-threatening eating disorder characterized by severe food restriction that can lead to a wide range of physical consequences. Someone with anorexia limits how much food they eat because they are worried about gaining weight. In many cases, individuals with anorexia are already underweight but perceive themselves as larger individuals when they look in the mirror. Prolonging malnourishment can wreak havoc on your body and its functions resulting in quite a few long-term health consequences.
One of the most common negative effects of anorexia is bradycardia. Bradycardia is an abnormal slowness of the heart rhythm, below 60 beats per minute. A normal resting rate can range anywhere from 60 to 100 beats per minute. When the blood flow is reduced and blood pressure drops to a dangerous level, the heart becomes weaker and shrinks to a smaller size.
Anorexia can also affect the number of electrolytes the body receives which can then affect the heartbeat. Minerals such as potassium, calcium, magnesium, and phosphate generally dissolve in body fluids, however, with an eating disorder, the reduction of these minerals results in an electrolyte imbalance. Electrolytes are essential for producing the electrical currents the body needs to maintain a normal heartbeat.
Osteoporosis is a medical condition that results in the weakening of the bones due to a loss in bone density. People with anorexia are at an increased risk for developing osteoporosis because malnutrition and chronic undernutrition can lead to low levels of estrogen, which is essential for maintaining bone health.
For the body to properly create and maintain hormones, it needs enough nutrition. Without the proper hormones, the body will stop ovulating, therefore, ending a menstrual period. Without this, a woman cannot conceive.
When a woman receives treatment for an eating disorder, her period may come back, however, this does not necessarily mean that the body is properly ovulating. Reaching an appropriate BMI is the only way to help hormones regulate properly and even then, it is common for women to lose the ability to conceive altogether after struggling with an eating disorder.
Anorexia can lead to seizures. This is an acute sign of the body not getting enough nutrients and electrolytes. There are a few different types of seizures, however, tonic-clonic seizures happen when muscles contract and relax rapidly while having an electrical discharge in the brain. Experiencing a seizure can cause loss of consciousness or place someone at increased risk for injury during the seizure.
If you, or someone you love, suffer from an eating disorder, do not hesitate to reach out for help. At Avalon Hills, we are dedicated to helping you reach and maintain recovery. For more information, give us a call at 866-872-5723.