Heart1.com: Great Information, Real Community, Better Living.
 Register
 Login
 Main Page
 Heart News
Feature Story
 Education Center
Conditions
Procedures
Diagnostics
 Heart Attack Center
Prevention
Survivors
Dr. Tod Engelhardt  Heart
 Hero™

Dr. Tod Engelhardt:
Combating Major Blood Clots.
About Heroes
 Join the Discussion  in  Our Forums
 Community
Heart1 Forums
Patient Stories
 Reference
Online Resources
Video Library
advertisement
Search the Body1 Network
October 15, 2019  
HEART NEWS: Feature Story

  • Print this Article
  • Email this Article
  • Links/Reprints
  • Hidden Dangers of Eating Disorders

    Schiavo Case Highlights Hidden Dangers of Eating Disorders


    April 07, 2005

    By: Diana Barnes-Brown for Heart1

    Most Americans with access to the media know the story of Terri Schiavo, the recently deceased Florida women who fell into a persistent vegetative state (PVS) several years ago as a result of a heart attack, and whose husband and parents were locked in a bitter dispute about whether she should be kept alive with a feeding tube or allowed to die without medical intervention. However, what may be surprising to some is that the cause of the heart attack that set Schiavo’s ordeal into motion was an eating disorder.

    Learn More
    Quick Facts on Eating Disorders

    1. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that between 0.5 and 3.7 percent of females suffer from anorexia nervosa and 1.1 to 4.2 percent of females have bulimia nervosa in their lifetime.

    2. Eating disorders are much more commonly diagnosed in females than in males; only 5 to 15 percent of those with anorexia or bulimia are male.

    3. Eating disorders most often begin in adolescence, but often continue into adulthood if proper treatment is not sought by parents, doctors and others in caretaking roles.

    4. Eating disorders are usually best managed with a combination of psychological counseling, nutritional rehabilitation, medical treatment to address any physical effects, and sometimes medication.

    5. Eating disorders often occur with other psychological disorders, including depression, anxiety disorders, substance abuse and other self-destructive behaviors.

    Different health experts may have varying definitions of the term “eating disorder.” Some think of eating disorders as being restricted to anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa alone, while others extent their definitions to include obesity, binge eating-induced obesity, and a handful of other, less common eating behaviors that lead to destructive physical and psychological consequences.

    About Bulimia
    Read more about the connection between Terri Schiavo and bulimia at:

    The Society for Women's Health Research

    Schiavo suffered from bulimia nervosa, a condition whose sufferers repeatedly “binge and purge.” People with bulimia generally consume large quantities of food and then attempt to compensate for the overeating by inducing vomiting, taking laxatives or diet pills, or using enemas to get rid of the unwanted food. Sometimes people with bulimia resort to excessive, obsessive exercising in addition to or instead of other purging activity. Others may alternate between binge sessions and starvation diets, with or without the aid of drugs.

    While the most common medical effects of bulimia include tooth and esophageal damage from repeated exposure to the stomach acid in vomit, there are other dangers as well. These include tearing of stomach and esophageal tissue from constant forced expulsion of food, laxative dependence and inability to have normal bowel movements, and potential heart failure from the abuse of emetics, such as ipecac, to induce vomiting. Finally, the rapid fluid loss of vomiting and chemical imbalances of starvation behavior can cause kidney and heart damage.

    In the case of heart damage, fluid loss can cause a shortage of the electrolytes sodium and potassium from the body and lead to severe dehydration and electrolyte imbalances. Without proper electrolyte levels in the body, the electrical impulses that control muscle movement – including the beating of the heart – cannot fire, leading to dangerous and possibly fatal outcomes.

    Schiavo collapsed of a heart attack at 27 years of age, and based on medical records and the accounts of friends and her husband, had suffered from an eating disorder for some time at that point. One hospital account notes that Schiavo had been dieting drastically and attempting to control her weight with a diet that consisted mostly of iced tea and other liquids at the time of her heart attack. Additionally, her potassium levels were 2.0 mEq/L at the time of her admission to the hospital, while normal levels for healthy adults are between 3.5 and 5.0. These low levels accounted for the heart attack that left her unconscious and deprived her brain of oxygen for five minutes, causing the irreversible brain damage that left her in a PVS.

    Of course, the consequences of eating disorders go far beyond the physical dangers of abusing one’s system so severely. Eating disorders involve dangerous distortions of self-image, depression, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive behaviors across the board. But it is important to remember that severely-restricted diets, if not addressed by appropriate support, intervention, and health and nutrition regimens, may in fact lead to life-threatening consequences whose severity is difficult to foresee.

    Last updated: 07-Apr-05

    Comments

  • Add Comment
  •    
    Interact on Heart1

    Discuss this topic with others.
     
    Feature Archives

    Heart Disease Patients Need to Exercise to Benefit from the Protective Effects of Wine

    Effective Treatment for Heart Failure Possible Following Discovery of Heart Molecule

    Significant Decrease in Heart Disease after Prison Smoking Bans

    Heart Failure Patients Who Sleep Poorly Are at Double the Risk for Hospitalization

    Long-Term Survival Possible for Pediatric Heart Transplant Patients

    Next 5 Features ...

    More Features ...
       
     
    Related Multimedia

    The risk of cardiac death due to a lower ejection fraction

    Plaques/fatty deposits as a cause for a heart attack

     
    Related Content
    From Ruin to Recovery – Part Four

    A Solution for Obesity and the Overweight? – Overeater’s Anonymous

    Eating Disorders Primer

    Merging Dental and Mental Health

    Atrioventricular Block/Heart Block

    More Features ...
     
    Home About Us Press Jobs Advertise With Us Contact Us
    advertisement
    © 2019 Body1 All rights reserved.
    Disclaimer: The information provided within this website is for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for consultation with your physician or healthcare provider. The opinions expressed herein are not necessarily those of the Owners and Sponsors of this site. By using this site you agree to indemnify, and hold the Owners and Sponsors harmless, from any disputes arising from content posted here-in.