The Risk of Having a Heart Attack When You Have an Eating Disorder

Usually, when we think about heart attack patients, we envision older people—middle age or older. We typically think of underlying causes being a high-fat diet, high cholesterol, obesity, or too much stress.

Usually, this is the case; most young, fit people don't have to worry about having a heart attack. Unfortunately, with an eating disorder, all bets are off. Even for children and teens, the risk of having a heart attack is greatly increased when an eating disorder is involved.

17 Year Old Suffers Heart Attack

Jeanette Suros was only 17 years old and very athletic when she suffered a heart attack. In an essay published in Teen Vogue, she writes that she struggled with body dysmorphia issues for as long as she remembered. She restricted calories so severely that she went into cardiac arrest. Every organ in her body was failing.

Even with that glaring warning sign, Suros went on to have 12 relapses requiring hospitalization before she started on the road to recovery.

Physical Activity Doesn't Always Mean Healthy

Tommy Kelly, a semi-professional soccer player from Scotland, developed an eating disorder after losing his mother and grandfather at the age of 17. After struggling with anorexia and bulimia for three years, he suffered a heart attack at the age of 20.

Kelly shared his story with The Telegraph UK. The incident ended his career, and well into his 30's now, he's continued to struggle with recovery.

What Eating Disorders Do to Your Heart

The heart is a muscle, and the effects of an eating disorder can be devastating. The longer a person has a disorder, the more at risk they may be, but you don't actually have to have an eating disorder for long to suffer from a serious—potentially fatal—incident.

When the body is deprived of food, it begins to lose muscle mass. This may cause the heart muscle to weaken. The walls can thin, and the heart chambers may enlarge. The valves may begin having trouble closing correctly.

When the heart doesn't get the nutrition it needs, it begins to weaken. It may begin to struggle with pumping blood through the body, so it needs to beat faster to try and keep up the blood flow. This is why people with eating disorders often experience heart palpitations or a racing heart.

Seek Help

If you suspect you or a loved one may have an eating disorder, your best bet would be to seek help as soon as possible. Your heart's health depends on it.

Sources: Everyday Health, Teen Vogue, The Telegraph

Photo: Pexels

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