The risk of death from bulimia

World Health Day takes place annually on 7th April—each year focusing on a particular aspect of health. The focus for 2012 is Ageing and health: Good health adds life to years. With this in mind, and having just listened to a mother speak of the death of her nineteen year old daughter Melissa from bulimia in 2009 (audio, 12 minutes), I wanted to take a look at the risk of death from bulimia.

Bulimia is not generally considered to be a life-threatening condition. However, as Melissa’s mother, Judy Avrin, points out, it need only take one bout of purging for someone to lose their life. Melissa died of a heart attack from ‘electrolyte imbalance.’

Cardiac or respiratory arrest are the most common causes of sudden death from bulimia. Electrolytes are minerals in the blood, such as potassium. When someone purges, these minerals become depleted and can restrict the ability of the heart to pump blood around the body and the ability of the lungs to breathe.

People with bulimia are twice as likely to die compared to people who don’t have an eating disorder. It has been estimated that 10% of bulimics will die as a result of their bulimia.

Other causes of death from bulimia include

  • having a stroke
  • seizures that cause brain damage
  • high acid levels building up in the blood
  • digestive enzymes attacking the pancreas
  • kidney failure
  • rupture of the esophagus
  • rupture of the stomach
  • choking on food
  • choking on one’s own vomit
  • depression leading to suicide

Judy Avrin has made a documentary film about her daughter’s experience of bulimia, taken from Melissa’s diaries—a film about loss and hope, called Someday Melissa.

To replenish electrolytes, eat

  • bananas
  • spinach
  • apricots
  • kiwis
  • milk
  • oranges
  • tomatoes
Posted on by natasha holme in Home page and tagged , , , , , ,

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