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Women hospitalized for bulimia more at risk of long-term heart disease: Montreal study

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Young women who suffer from severe bulimia nervosa could be more at risk of suffering long-term cardiovascular diseases, according to a Montreal study.

Dr. Nathalie Auger and her team at the Centre hospitalier universitaire de l’Université de Montréal (CHUM) found women hospitalized for severe bulimia are four times more at risk of suffering long-term cardiovascular diseases than other patients — and close to five times more at risk of dying within a decade after hospitalization.

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Bulimia nervosa is characterized by episodes of binge eating followed by forced self-induced vomiting, usage of laxatives and excessive exercise.

Multiple studies were conducted on the immediate impacts of bulimia, but not on the link between the condition and cardiovascular issues on a long-term basis, said Dr. Auger, who is also a professor of public health at l’Université de Montréal.

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“Eating disorders are often neglected within the definition of mental illnesses,” she said in an interview with The Canadian Press.

Dr. Auger followed close to 417,000 women hospitalized in Quebec between 2006 and 2018. Among those, 818 were admitted for bulimia.

Close to 90 per cent of people who suffer from bulimia are women. The troubles begin, most commonly, during adolescence or at the beginning of adult age.

Bulimia is linked to psychological stress most common in women, the study details.

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Following the results, researchers suggest patients would benefit from follow-ups in order to avoid cardiovascular diseases and limit risk factors.

It is estimated that one to 3 per cent of young women suffer from bulimia, according to Statistics Canada.

The results of the study conducted by Dr. Auger have been published in the JAMA Psychiatry scientific journal.

— With files from Stéphanie Marin from The Canadian Press