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Posts Tagged ‘anorexia symptoms’

I’ve written in brief about heart problems with anorexia, but it’s any eating disorder that can also produce severe heart problems. This is the hidden killer for many. I found that not knowing Sophie’s true heart rate until she was in hospital to be a very critical issue. The GP and others treating her before her first hospital admission, didn’t mention heart problems either. Nor did they do a full check on heart rate – lying down, sitting, standing. There was never a moment that they measured drop rate. They also never mentioned the heart rate overnight, when it normally drops. For those with anorexia this is very very critical. Many have their heart rate drop into emergency intensive care zones during this time and never know it. It happened to us and thousands of others. The scary side – heart failure – and not even knowing that it was getting the heart was getting that low.

As we coasted towards our second hospital admission, this time I was more than aware. Our specialist doctor did the proper heart rate tests, but I pushed our GP to do the same (and still struggled for them to understand how important this was). I also took Sophie’s heart rate late at night and in the early morning before she got up. It gave me a very real idea of what her heart was dropping to overnight, it gave me more mileage with the GP and getting her pushed onto the critical admission list.

The article below also outlines the different types of heart problems that arise with eating disorders. I didn’t know that last two and frankly, we should all be told these things regardless when we are in treatment care. I’ve put just the heart information here, but the full article that covers more general information about anorexia is available: http://www.everydayhealth.com/columns/jared-bunch-rhythm-of-life/for-both-men-and-women-anorexia-nervosa-is-increasing-and-the-effects-on-the-heart-can-be-severe/

Anorexia and the Heart

Here are four broad patterns in which the heart is affected with both short- and long-term exposure to anorexia nervosa:

1. Loss of heart muscle. Just like the skeletal muscles in your arms and legs that you can see, the heart muscle loses mass. In patients with longstanding anorexia the heart walls thin and weaken. The heart chambers then enlarge. The pumping function of the heart declines and with it, blood pressure falls. Organs that are very sensitive to blood pressure and blood flow such as the kidneys and liver then begin to fail. Fortunately with weight gain and replenishment of essential vitamins and minerals the heart muscle often recovers.

2. Abnormal heart rhythms. A number of abnormal heart rhythms can occur with anorexia. One is that the heart beats slowly, a pattern called bradycardia. This is a particular problem in people who have weak heart muscles. Normally if the heart function weakens and less blood is pumped with each beat, the heart has to increase the number of beats per minute to maintain the same average blood flow. With anorexia, if the energy stores in the heart are so depleted that the heart rhythm cannot increase to compensate for a weakened heart failure, blood pressure falls more quickly and organ failure develops rapidly.

Another concern is fast abnormal heart rhythms. People tend to be most sensitive to these types of rhythms if they follow a pattern of binge eating and purging. This can result in dangerous shifts and loss of body electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, and magnesium. The electrical aspects of the heart that create heartbeats are critically dependent on these electrolytes. When they fall, chaotic electrical patterns can develop in the lower heart chambers that result in cardiac arrest.

3. Loss of the autonomic regulation of the heart and blood vessels. Our bodies do a lot of things that we are unaware of to help us function. For example, the simple act of sitting or standing requires multiple complex changes in the body. Among these are constricting of the blood vessels to raise blood pressure, and a subtle elevation of the heart rate and contractility of the heart. In people with anorexia these reflexes can be impaired or lost. This can result in profound drops in blood pressure when attempting to sit, stand, or walk. People with anorexia can experience severe lightheadedness, fainting spells, and even cognitive changes.

4. Mitral valve prolapse. The heart valve between the upper and lower chambers on the left side of the heart is called the mitral valve. It closes when the lower heart chamber contracts to pump blood throughout the body. The changes in the heart muscle mass compared the structure of the heart valve can affect the closing of the valve. The mitral valve then can close less tightly and prolapse into the upper heart chamber. In people with anorexia about 20 percent will have mitral valve prolapse. Unfortunately, the heart valve condition appears to persist even after weight gain.

I am seeing more patients with anorexia in my clinic. To a physician, low body weight and in particular the pattern of muscle loss are noticeable signs. Most of my patients with anorexia eat a low to low-normal calorie content in a day, but then exercise excessively. Despite being very underweight they still discuss weight loss goals they hope to attain. More recently, I have encountered a surge in misuse of “natural” therapies to cleanse or purge the colon or work as a diuretic. These therapies are every bit as dangerous when misused as prescription laxatives and diuretics, and can lead to severe mineral and electrolyte depletion a

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To all the doctors, dietitians, medical professionals, and parents

Imagine you are in a dark, scary place. Your mind is playing tricks on you so you don’t know what is real and what is not. You have lost what truth means or write your own truth. You are terribly insecure, sad, and have no hope. You know you are sliding into a deep hole but are powerless to stop it. You hate yourself and feel so weird around others you isolate yourself. Your emotions and life are just numb and you prefer to just ‘disappear’. It would be better to hide. You have obsessions that you can’t control, that just take over your body and mind. It is like being on a treadmill that you can’t stop, but gets faster and faster. Until you are out of control and desperately want help, but are terrified to ask for it. Giving up on life completely seems a better option.

Would you like to live like this everyday for months or years?

This is the basis of what it is to live with an eating disorder. It is a mental health illness that needs treatment not ignorance.

How much educational awareness, media coverage, research etc will it take for you to realise eating disorders are serious. Or worse, they actually exist and will not go away just because you don’t want to understand or treat the disorder.

How many sufferers are condemned to getting sicker because you don’t believe they have an eating disorder or are not critical enough? Your brush off and lack of care or support silences the voice of the sufferer. Imagine having finally reached out to someone because you are desperate for help only to be told you don’t rate enough to get help.

Where do you get the idea that ‘just eat’ will work or ‘I know you can eat so get over this’. Why would you use medication to increase the appetite when you aren’t treating the mind or emotions? Who decides who is critical enough to warrant the attention of a psychologist or psychiatrist? Who decides that an eating disorder has ‘levels’ of diagnosis? Cancer is cancer not almost cancer. An eating disorder is the same and demands the same instant attention and treatment.

EATING DISORDERS ARE NOT ATTENTION SEEKING BEHAVIOUR

EATING DISORDERS ARE NOT A MINOR ILLNESS THAT YOU GIVE A BANDAID FOR

EATING DISORDERS ARE NOT A FOOD OR WEIGHT PROBLEM

EATING DISORDERS ARE NOT THE LATEST SOCIAL CRAZE AND MUST HAVE

There is no excuse apart from ignorance to treat people with an eating disorder as unimportant or stupid. Information is widely available including research. No one wants their loved one to have an eating disorder, but to bury your head in the sand and pretend it doesn’t exist will only make the eating disorder worse. It will get a stronger grip and you will end up with someone who is very sick. Early intervention and treatment is the key and so much research and statistics prove this point. And follow up support after treatment is also essential. You just don’t drop and run.

When you are an adult sufferer you can at least keep pursuing the challenge to find appropriate support/medical professionals to help you recover. It is a challenge that should NOT be there. Public health systems, medical insurers make the task of finding appropriate help a nightmare. Any other illness is a straight forward approach, but eating disorders still have not made even made it to basic level.

For those under adult age and are reliant on a parent getting them help they need it is heartbreaking. Not having a parent who understands or wants to take the time to learn what an eating disorder is only adds to the strength of the illness and the entrenchment of the illness. It won’t go away conveniently for you and yes it will cost money and time. Ignoring the illness and your child adds guilt, shame and denial of self to your child. They don’t need that – it just feeds the illness. I will be the first to put my hand up and say the journey over the last 4 years has been hell at times. But it has been worth it to see my daughter now.

I know I have vented before, and have said a lot of this before too. But I get sooooooo frustrated and angry when I get emails with desperate cries of help because families and the medical establishment remain blissfully ignorant.

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stormLate recovery stages deliver what is the real person. You find out what is left after the storm has passed. What has been broken, fixed, changed, unchanged. And it really is like a vicious, long storm that changes the landscape. In the calm afterwards you try to recognise what is left and what is new that you have to adjust to. You can no longer blame incidents and issues on the eating disorder behaviour.

The eating disorder heightened many of Sophie’s character and personality traits. It also changed much of her personality for such a long time. She seemed to operate different levels – highly sensitive, extreme perfection and black/white, controlled, achieving. The other level was a underworld level of depression, harm, loss of identity, suicidal.

Now the eating disorder has mostly gone from public viewing and she has learned to box it into a corner, I can see what has always been her and is probably unchangeable. The areas that she will have to absorb and learn to work with, not run from. Yes these traits can lead back into an eating disorder, but given now the tools and experiences she has learnt hopefully she can use other ways to deflect rather than using food as the answer.

Perfectionism in areas of passion will always be there. Black/white thinking is something she is struggling with and learning slowly that there are lots of colours and greys in between the two extremes. Social insecurities may also be  part of her life. The asperger traits of not liking change, being rigid, missing social cues and emotions are also always there.

What got left behind was the need to deny her female gender, the belief she was the one in the wrong, that her life was unable to change, that bad things were her lot in life, that she had no power or voice.

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