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Topic of the Month

February: National Eating Disorders Week, Feb. 22-28

What Are Eating Disorders?

Eating disorders are serious, potentially life-threatening conditions that affect both a person’s emotional and physical health. A person with an eating disorder may start out just eating smaller or larger amounts of food, but at some point, their urge to eat less or more spirals out of control. Severe distress or concern about body weight or shape, or extreme efforts to manage weight or food intake, also may characterize an eating disorder.

Who Is Affected by Eating Disorders?

In the United States alone, 30 million people will be impacted by an eating disorder at some point in their lifetime. These conditions affect all kinds of people and don’t discriminate by race, age, sex, age or size. Rates among women and girls are 2½ times greater than among men and boys.

What Are the Health Effects and Consequences of Eating Disorders?

Eating disorders are not just a “fad” or a “phase.” They are real, complex, and devastating conditions that can have serious consequences for health, productivity, and relationships. Every eating disorder has unique health effects and consequences, below are the most common eating disorders.

  • Anorexia nervosa. During the cycle of self-starvation, the body is denied the essential nutrients it needs to function normally, forcing the body to slow down all of its processes to conserve energy.
  • Bulimia. The recurrent binge-and-purge cycles of bulimia can affect the entire digestive system and lead to electrolyte and chemical imbalances in the body that affect the heart and other major organ functions.
  • Binge eating disorder. Binge eating often results in many of the same health risks associated with clinical obesity, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels.

 

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Tips from Our Doctors

This month, our healthy tip is brought to you by Duane Ross, MD, our Medical Director.

People with eating disorders need to seek professional help. Typical treatment goals include restoring adequate nutrition, bringing weight to a healthy level, reducing excessive exercise, and stopping binging and purging behaviors. Some patients also may need to be hospitalized to treat problems caused by malnutrition or to ensure they eat enough if they are very underweight.

Treatment plans often are tailored to individual needs and may include one or more of the following:

  • Individual, group, or family psychotherapy
  • Medical care and monitoring
  • Nutritional counseling
  • Medications

If you or someone you care about might be suffering from an eating disorder, it is important to educate yourself and seek professional guidance as soon as possible because early intervention is key to successful recovery.

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