Female Athlete Triad
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW:
- The female athlete triad is a condition that may affect women who exercise too much or play sports. It is a combination of one or more health problems. These health problems include disordered eating, amenorrhea, and low bone density. Disordered eating happens when someone has abnormal eating patterns or behaviors. Amenorrhea is a condition where menstrual (monthly) periods stop or become irregular. Low bone density leads to osteopenia or osteoporosis where the bones become weak and thin. The female athlete triad occurs when a female athlete does intense training and has a strict diet. She may focus too much on being thin or lightweight to help her performance.
- Signs and symptoms of the female triad begin with having abnormal eating habits. You may also have fractures (breaks in the bone), fatigue (tiring easily), too much weight loss, and trouble thinking. Different tests, such as blood and urine tests, bone density scan, or ultrasound may be used to help diagnose the female athlete triad. Treatment aims to manage all three health problems of the female athlete triad. These include medicines, proper diet and exercise, and counseling or therapies. The success of treating the female athlete triad is best when it is found and treated as soon as possible.
AFTER YOU LEAVE:
Take your medicine as directed:
Call your primary healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.
Ask for information about where and when to go for follow-up visits:
For continuing care, treatments, or home services, ask for more information.
Preventing the female athlete triad:
Education is the best way to prevent the female athlete triad. The following tips may help prevent the female athlete triad:
- Be well informed and learn more about the female athlete triad. You, your coach, trainers, and teammates should be aware of the female athlete triad. Proper nutrition, safe training exercises, and knowing the dates of your monthly menstrual cycle are also important. The more you know about the female athlete triad, the better you will be able to help yourself and your team. Ask your caregiver how to learn more about the female athlete triad. Meet with other women who are recovering from the female athlete triad to help yourself.
- Do not be afraid to ask for help at any time. Talk to your coach, trainers, friends, or family if you have problems with your sports or health. You may visit a dietitian if you need help with meal planning. Weight loss or gain should be guided by a caregiver.
- Do not compare yourself to others. Learn to like yourself. Ideal body weight, sports performance, and health status are different for everyone. Try to choose your friends or role models with healthy body images and eating habits. Coaches, trainers, teammates, or family members should avoid pressuring athletes to diet and lose weight.
- Eat a healthy diet: Eating healthy foods may help you feel better and have more energy. Eat a diet that is high in calcium, iron, and protein. Calcium is found in dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt. Iron is found in red meat and certain vegetables. Protein is found in chicken, fish, meats, and beans. Also include fruit, colorful vegetables, pasta, rice and bread in your diet. You may need to use vitamins and minerals if you are not getting enough nutrients in your food. Avoid skipping meals or even snacks. Ask your caregiver for more information about the best eating plan for you.
- Monitor your weight and monthly period. You or a caregiver may need to check your weight regularly. Write down your monthly period schedule. Keeping track of your menstrual periods can help check the number of days between cycles.
- Be patient and keep your hopes up for improvement. Be patient with yourself. Find ways to boost your self-esteem. Work together with your family and friends and give each other support. This will help during hard times.
- Change your activities. Include other activities in your life such as spending time with your family and friends.
- Sports and exercise: You do not need to stop exercising completely. Talk to your caregiver before you start exercising again. Together you can plan an exercise program that best suits you. You may have to start with a low-impact sport, such as walking or swimming, and do more as you get stronger.
For support and more information:
Having the female athlete triad may be a life-changing condition for you and your family. Accepting that you have the female athlete triad is hard. You and those close to you may feel scared, angry, or sad. These are normal feelings. Talk to your caregivers, family, or friends about your feelings. You may also want to join a support group. This is a group of women who also have the female athlete triad. Contact the following for more information:
- American Academy of Family Physicians
11400 Tomahawk Creek Parkway
Leawood , KS 66211-2680
Phone: 1- 913 - 906-6000
Phone: 1- 800 - 274-2237
Web Address: http://www.aafp.org
- The National Women's Health Information Center
8270 Willow Oaks Corporate Drive
Fairfax , VA 22031
Phone: 1- 800 - 994-9662
Web Address: http://www.womenshealth.gov
CONTACT A CAREGIVER IF:
- You cannot make it to your next meeting with your caregiver.
- You feel you cannot cope at home, work, or in school.
- You have new symptoms since the last time you visited your caregiver.
- Your symptoms are getting worse.
- You have questions or concerns about your condition, treatment, or care.
SEEK CARE IMMEDIATELY IF:
- You had a convulsion (seizure).
- You have trouble breathing, chest pains, or a fast heartbeat.
- You feel like hurting yourself or someone else.
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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.