More threads by Daniel E.

Daniel E.
Anorexia and heart problems -
Pediatrics for Parents, August, 2003

Anorexia and impaired heart function often go hand in hand. A recent study of 41 anorexic girls who were given a cardiac exercise stress test found that over half had significant cardiac impairment or cardiac abnormalities. These girls had no symptoms or other indications of heart problems. Three had potentially life-threatening electrocardiogram changes and irregular heart beats.

In the group of girls with heart problems, 18 were trained athletics. Although they tended to have less impairment, 40% still had moderate or severe decreased function of the heart when tested.

The finding of heart abnormalities in girls with anorexia is not new. The importance of the study is the finding that many of these problems become apparent only during exercise testing.

The most common cardiac abnormality found was bradycardia--an abnormally slow heart rate. Sadly, many of the girls thought their slow heart rates were a sign of physical fitness rather than a sign of their malnutrition.

Unfortunately, providing these girls with information about their heart problems or the risk of heart problems caused by anorexia did little to change their behaviors. Most wanted to know when they could resume exercising.

Family Practice News. 5/15/03.
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