Eating disorders are quite complex and from the outside may look like just a weight problem. However, they are much more.  Most people don’t realize how eating disorders affect the cardiovascular system. The way you eat, whether you suffer from bulimia, anorexia, or binge eating, impacts each of the systems of your body in a variety of ways. The cardiovascular system, including your heart, is directly impacted by the lack of nutrients and the hormonal changes in your body brought on by eating disorders.

Losing Weight Quickly Impacts Heart Health

One of the most immediate changes that impacts the well being of individuals who suffer from eating disorders that involve losing a great deal of weight rapidly is the direct impact on the heart. Rapid weight loss, which is very common in conditions such as anorexia nervosa, is unhealthy and can lead to:

  • Mitral valve prolapse
  • Supraventricular and ventricular dysrhythmias
  • Long QT syndrome
  • Orthostatic hypotension
  • Bradycardia
  • Chronic congestive heart failure
  • Shock
  • Sudden cardiac arrest

Each of these is a term used to describe a different but severe impact on the heart related to the muscle’s condition, the rhythm in which it pumps, or the overall health of the heart’s inner chambers. Many times, it can lead to a sudden heart attack.

Bulimia’s Impact

Eating disorders affect the cardiovascular system, especially the heart. And Bulimia is another eating disorder that can impact the overall health of the cardiovascular system. Purging itself can create an electrolyte imbalance as can dehydration, both of which are very commonly associated with a lack of pumping power and irregular heartbeats. If you lose the electrolyte balance in your body, this can cause low magnesium, low phosphate, low sodium, and potassium imbalances. All of this can lead to a sudden heart attack because these nutrients help to regular the pumping and beat of the heart.

What does this mean for you if you have an eating disorder?

In some situations, whether you suffer from high blood pressure and cholesterol levels from binge eating disorders or you suffer from heart atrophy caused by anorexia, the symptoms may improve if you improve your eating habits. However, the damage can and often is permanent especially as the eating disorder worsens.

Don’t allow an eating disorder to destroy your heart. Instead, seek out immediate medical treatment for what you believe is occurring and stop the progression of not only your eating disorder but also your heart disease.