If you love a person who suffers from bulimia, you know the havoc this disorder can wreak on the body.
The binging and purging, especially after years of repetition, can cause severe damage to the digestive system, including stomach pain, constipation, and even blocked intestines. In extreme cases, the stomach may rupture from overeating, or the esophagus may rupture from excessive vomiting.
A person with bulimia may also suffer from lack of sleep, emotional distress, and organ dysfunction. One organ, in particular, that takes a beating from bulimia is the heart. Today we will look at what bulimia does to a person’s heart and how this affects a person’s mortality.
How Does Bulimia Cause Problems in a Person’s Heart?
Think about when you have a stomach bug. What is the biggest concern? It isn’t usually nausea or an empty belly, although those things are certainly unpleasant. The biggest concern is dehydration. And what do you do to combat this problem? You drink something with electrolytes.
Because of regular purging, bulimia can cause short-term dehydration and long-term electrolyte imbalance, particularly a lack of potassium, magnesium, and sodium. Dehydration can weaken the heart muscles over time, and electrolyte imbalance can cause an irregular heartbeat. These things combined can lead to heart failure. (1)
How Dangerous are Heart Problems Caused By Bulimia?
While an irregular heartbeat may seem mild and the possibility of heart failure unlikely, the truth is that these problems deal a major blow to bulimia mortality rates. (2)
Let’s take a look at what a 2015 study discovered about the cardiovascular risks associated with bulimia. Researchers followed 800 women hospitalized with bulimia and 415,000 women hospitalized for pregnancy complications over a 12-year course. Here’s what they found:
Women hospitalized for bulimia
- Are seven times more likely than the other women to have hardened arteries
- Carry six times the risk of developing coronary artery disease
- Are five times more likely to have a heart attack
- Carry four times more the risk of heart attack, stroke, and dying (3)
It should be noted that the women involved in this study were, by and large, young women. The average age at the start of the study was 28 years old, with women ending the study at an average of 40 years old.
These aren’t typical heart attack years. And yet, so many women encountered cardiovascular issues due to a history of bulimia.
In fact, studies show that while one out of every 1,000 women will develop heart disease every year, 10 out of every 1,000 women with bulimia will develop heart disease every year. And three of them will die. (3) More women with bulimia will die from heart disease than the number of women in the general population who will even develop it.
A sober truth if, ever there was one.