American Medical News drew my attention to a recent study published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders. Among the surprising findings, 62% of women surveyed (all over the age of 50) said that their weight or shape negatively impacted their life, and 13.3% had eating disorders. About 7.5% of respondents admitted to trying diet pills to lose weight, while 2.2% used laxatives, and 1.2% vomited to reduce their weight (aka bulimia).
Eating disorder treatment facilities have noticed a surge in older patients, including one center that experienced a 42% increase in the number of women older than 35 seeking treatment at its clinics nationwide over the past decade.
Healthcare providers should be aware that eating disorders are not just a problem for young women. Women of all ages are now struggling with a rail-thin beauty ideal in a country of rising obesity rates, sedentary lifestyles, and ubiquitous junk food. And for older women with eating disorders, the health risks of osteoporosis, stomach ulcers, and cardiovascular abnormalities are much higher.
Perhaps primary care physicians should include an eating disorder questionnaire in their regular visits with boomers? We may be surprised by the prevalence of this issue, and I bet that many of our patients will be glad we asked.
This article (full reference below) on the additional benefits an individual gains from having a reduction mammoplasty (RM) has been published online ahead of print. The authors performed a systemic review of the literature focusing on functional outcomes after RM with regard to physical and psychological symptom improvement.
The authors performed a systematic review of the English literature using PUBMED for the period between 1977 to 2010. Studies were chosen that addressed the physical and psychological benefits of RM using a validated questionnaire.
The authors note that nearly eighty thousand breast reductions were performed in 2009. For insurance coverage in the United States a woman seeking breast reduction must have complaints of physical symptoms (i.e., Read more »
At a time when two thirds of Americans are either overweight or obese, health officials are correctly warning that most of us need to lose weight. But we may be setting ourselves up for a surge in eating disorders.
The two main types of eating disorders are food restricting (commonly referred to as “anorexia”) and binge eating and purging (commonly referred to as “bulimia”). The disorders typically begin in adolescence and affect women much more commonly than men.
Statistics are tough to come by – partly because of under-diagnosis and incomplete reporting – but a recent review estimated that 500,000 women in the U.S. have anorexia and 1-2 million women have bulimia.
A key feature of an eating disorder is the disparity between perception and reality. Over the past thirty years, obesity (BMI >= 95th percentile) in teenagers increased from 5.0 percent to 17.6 percent. While that rate has skyrocketed, it’s still much lower than the perceived rate of obesity among students.
Among children in grades nine through 12, 10 percent of females were obese and 15.5 percent were “at risk” for becoming obese (BMI >=85 percentile but <95th percentile). Yet 38.1 percent of students described themselves as overweight and 61.7 percent were trying to lose weight.
Put another way, more than half the women trying to lose weight were not overweight.
Why do people who are not overweight think they need to lose weight? There’s no simple explanation. Experts believe that genetic, environmental, psychological, and social factors can all play a role in eating disorders. Studies suggest that movies, magazines, and television contribute to eating disorders by idealizing overly thin women and exacerbating body dissatisfaction, especially in people with low self-esteem. Fashion magazines often feature models with obvious signs of anorexia. The theme is clear: less is more.
My intuition tells me we’re at a tricky point in the national discussion of weight. Since research suggests that the wrong public message can be especially dangerous for patients at risk of an eating disorder, we need to be very careful as we develop strategies against obesity. As they create their plans, agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) should include experts in eating disorders.
For this week’s CBS Doc Dot Com, I talk to Leslie Lipton and her father, Roger, about how Leslie has successfully battled anorexia. Click below to watch the video:
I also interviewed Dr. B. Timothy Walsh, a renowned expert on eating disorders and Professor of Psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center and author of the book, “If Your Adolescent Has an Eating Disorder.” Click below to watch the video:
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