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Date of last update: 10/20/2017.

Forum Name: Miscellaneous Cardiology Topics

Question: bulimia/heart question

 mlady - Thu Mar 24, 2005 11:21 am

Dear Dr.(s) and others,

My question is about what kind of damage long term bulima can do to the heart.

I've had this eating disorder for several years. It started when I was 19, and I'm now 27. There have been a couple of years during that time when I successfully quit purging, but I always returned to bulimia again. I have recently stopped all bulimic behaviors because I learned about the Terri Schaivo case and that her brain damage was caused when the effects of an eating disorder stopped her heart. I know that I will never do this again.

Several of my teeth are partially dissolved now, and I've been having pains in the left side of my chest very frequently for a long time.

Do you think it is likely that I have damaged my heart, and if so, is there anything that can be done to help the situation, such as medication?

I know that I must see a doctor, but I'm afraid that the doctor will be disgusted and not help because I did this to myself.
 Rhonda P, CEP - Fri Mar 25, 2005 11:14 pm

User avatar I know you don't need the lecture and you don't deserve it, I put this information in here for the person who may not realize what they are doing to their body. You, on the other hand have realized the danger you have put yourself in. GOOD DOCTOR'S DON'T TREAT YOU LIKE YOU'RE STUPID!! A good Doctor will work with you and make sure everything is working as well as possible. You may need to be put on supplements, go get bloodwork done, a check-up and whatever else is recommended. Now, here's the lecture...

Not only does our body need vitamins to build and repair itself, it needs minerals. Minerals are used in the body not as source of food but rather as an aid to other body nutrients. They increase the ability of a nutrient to function and strengthen its effectiveness.

With the decrease in food and energy from food, a fluid electrolyte disorder called hyponatremia develops where there is not enough sodium in the body. Made worse by laxatives (diuretics) and excessive sweating through the compulsive exercise, low sodium levels trigger the adrenal cortex to release aldosterone, targeting the kidney tubules. When stimulated, the kidneys raise the absorption rate of Na+ (sodium) in the proximal convoluted tubules and the loops of Henle in the kidneys. It is important to understand that while the sodium content of the body may change, its concentration in the extracellular fluid remains stabile because of adjustments in water volume. Hyponatremia, when not corrected, causes a neurologic dysfunction due to brain swelling, systemic edemia, decreased water loss which leads to decreased blood pressure and volume, as well as cardiac arrhythmia and circulatory shock. Physical signs of this electrolyte disorder are headaches, muscle cramps, thirst, lethargy, and weakness. Relating very closely to sodium's role in the body is that of potassium.

"Potassium, the chief intracellular cation, is required for normal neuromuscular functioning, as well as for several essential metabolic activities, including protein synthesis." Although potassium can be toxic at high levels, eating disorders cause the level of potassium to fall dramatically lower than normal causing the same drastic effects. A deficit of potassium can cause hyperpolarization and nonresponsiveness of the neurons controlling our body, a condition called hypokalemia. The heart, being the most sensitive to K+(potassium), may develop cardiac arrhythmia and possible arrest also. Muscular weaknesses, alkalosis of the blood, and hypovenilation may accompany low levels of potassium.

The effects of hyponatremia and hypokalemia may not be prevalent at the onset of an eating disorder and may not even show up for quite some time due to the low levels of other chemicals that hinder, compensate, or account for the difference. For example, not enough magnesium (hypomagnesemia) can cause tremors and increase neuromuscular excitability. .

Other than all of that, here are a FEW things you can expect from excessive vomiting:

Damaged teeth (Acid from stomach may cause tooth damage)

Throat Irritation (The throat has no protection against acid and may lead to permanent scaring)

Esophageal Damage

Swollen Salivary Glands

Broken Blood Vessel in your face, eyes, nose, brain (Vomiting puts strains on your facial muscles resulting in broken vessels from excessive vomiting)

Cracked damaged Lips (also a result of acid from the stomach)

Rectal Bleeding (Excessive laxative use leads to damage of the large intestines)

Heart damage (When you vomit excessively you put excess strain on your heart, which may lead to permanent damage)

Dehydration (excessive vomiting results in fluid loss)

and, lets not forget DEATH

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