The Female Athlete Triad – Are You at Risk

Female Athlete Triad Symptoms: What are They?

The Female Athlete Triad (FAT) is a group of health problems that affect women. These problems may or may not have physical causes. However, they do often involve psychological factors such as stress, anxiety, depression and eating disorders. Fatty liver disease, high blood pressure and heart disease are some examples of these conditions which can lead to the development of the FAT.

Fatty Liver Disease (FBD): FBD is a condition where fat builds up in your body. This leads to fatty deposits in your liver and other organs, including your brain. If left untreated, it can cause damage to the organ’s ability to function properly. It can even result in death if not treated promptly.

High Blood Pressure (HBP): High blood pressure is a medical condition where the pressure inside your arteries becomes too high. This can cause chest pains, shortness of breath and other symptoms. If left untreated, it can cause damage to the heart muscle and eventually lead to heart failure.

Heart Disease: Heart disease is a medical condition caused by build up of plaque in your arteries. Plaque buildup in your arteries increases the risk of having a stroke or heart attack.

The female athlete triad encompasses the consequences of the above conditions. This is the reason why it is important for women who are physically active and engage in sports to maintain a healthy lifestyle to prevent the above conditions from occurring. A woman who displays 2 out of the 3 symptoms or conditions of the female athlete triad is considered to be at an increased risk of serious health problems.

Who Is At Risk Of Developing The Female Athlete Triad?

Since the causes of the female athlete triad are multi-factorial, it is very difficult to identify who is at risk. The condition develops slowly over time with symptoms arising as a result of various stressors and other contributing factors.

How Does Being Physically Active Or Eating Well Increase The Risk?

There are many reasons why individuals who are physically active or eat a well-balanced diet are more at risk of developing the triad. One of the reasons is that women who engage in sports tend to have a lower body fat percentage.

This can lead to menstrual cycle irregularities affecting their iron levels and bone health. This is because physical activity can deplete the body’s store of iron and this is needed to produce red blood cells.

Eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia may also cause these symptoms. These can be risk factors even in women who are of normal weight.

What Are The Other Types Of Low Body Fat?

Menstrual Irregularities: Women may experience irregular or missed menstrual periods if their body fat is too low. They may also suffer from amenorrhea. This is when the person stops getting their period completely. If a woman’s body fat falls below a certain level (8-12%) they may face difficulty getting pregnant as well.

Low Iron Levels: Low iron levels can cause symptoms such as fatigue, shortness of breath and paleness. Very low iron levels are linked to anemia. This can lead to difficulty in physical activity or reduced exercise performance.

Low Bone Density: Low bone density can lead to osteoporosis in later life. This is a condition where the bones become weak and brittle and are more likely to be broken. The lower the body fat, the greater the risk.

What Can I Do To Prevent The Female Athlete Triad?

In order to prevent the triad from occurring it is important to maintain a healthy and well-balanced diet as well as ensure that you are getting sufficient rest. It is also important to seek medical advice if you experience any of the symptoms of the triad. If you feel like you have an eating disorder or are compulsively exercising it is important to get help from a doctor, friend or family member immediately.

What Are The Treatment Options?

There are various treatment options available for each symptom and condition of the female athlete triad. They include:

Menstrual Irregularities:

Restoring the balance of hormones may help normalize the menstrual cycle. This can be achieved with medications such as birth control pills or estrogen-progesterone combination pills. Hormone replacement therapy with estrogen can be used to treat amenorrhea.

Low Iron Levels:

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Since iron is an important mineral for the body, restoring iron levels back to normal will improve oxygen uptake and enhance performance. This can be achieved by taking iron supplements or by increasing your intake of iron-rich foods such as red meat, fish, lentils and spinach.

Low Bone Density:

It is important to maintain a healthy diet and active lifestyle in order to keep your bones strong and prevent decreased bone density. Calcium supplements may also be recommended.

What Can I Do To Prevent These Symptoms From Occurring?

There are several ways to prevent the triad from occurring in yourself or others. This includes maintaining a healthy diet and active lifestyle, getting sufficient rest and being aware of the importance of regular medical check-ups. It is important to seek help if you or someone you know is suffering from any of these symptoms. Early detection and treatment are vital to ensuring a full recovery.

The Female Athlete Triad

The triad is a condition that affects teenage and adult women. It is caused by a combination of diet, nutrient deficiencies and low body fat. The triad consists of three conditions: osteoporosis, eating disorders and amenorrhea.


This condition is characterized by a decrease in bone density. This makes the bones weak and more likely to be broken or fractured. Osteoporosis is more common in women than in men and can lead to a greater risk of bone fractures.

Eating Disorders:

There are various types of eating disorders that may lead to the triad. Some of the main ones include anorexia, excessive exercising and bulimia. Anorexia is when people severely limit the amount of food they consume or have an irrational fear of becoming overweight. This may lead to malnutrition and starvation. Excessive exercising is when people spend several hours a day or more exercising compulsively without taking time to rest.

It can lead to muscle atrophy and loss of bone density.

Bulimia is when people eat a large amount of food at once and then induce vomiting or take laxatives in order to prevent the body from absorbing all of the calories in the food. This can lead to irregular eating habits and severe nutrient deficiencies.


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Amenorrhea is the condition where a woman’s menstrual cycle has stopped completely. There are two main types of amenorrhea, functional and organic. Functional amenorrhea is when a woman has not started her period by the age of 16. Organic amenorrhea is when a woman has her period for at least a year and then suddenly stops. This condition can have several causes including stress, excessive exercising or the triad.

Treatment For The Triad:

There are several ways for people who suffer from the triad to recover. The main focus of treatment is to restore regular menstrual cycles. This will enable doctors to assess whether a woman has low bone density and begin treating this accordingly.

There are several ways to treat the triad. These include increasing daily caloric intake and implementing a healthy diet, increasing vitamin intake, increasing calcium and vitamin D intake and weight gain in people with anorexia. It is also important for people suffering from bulimia to seek help in stopping the behavior that is causing the problem. In more serious cases treatment in a residential center may be necessary to properly recover.

There are several different organizations that can provide help and advice on how to recover from the triad. Some of these include the National Eating Disorders Association and the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists.

Ebstein’s Anomaly

Ebstein’s Anomaly is a congenital heart disease where the tricuspid valve doesn’t develop properly. This means that blood isn’t pumped effectively out of the atria. It is usually found in just one or sometimes both atria. Most of the time Ebstein’s Anomaly causes no problems at all and people live completely healthy lives with it.

Symptoms Of Ebstein’s Anomaly:

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If the condition does cause problems then these will usually show by the time a person is an adult. Some of the symptoms of Ebstein’s Anomaly include fainting, slow heart rate, low blood pressure, an accelerated rate of breathing and difficulty in regulating body temperature.

Medical Treatment For Ebstein’s Anomaly:

There is no cure for Ebstein’s Anomaly and the condition has to be managed, usually with medication. In more serious cases surgery can be used to help improve heart pumping or to reduce the strain on the heart caused by the abnormality. Medication can also help to keep the heart working effectively and at a steady pace. Some people have an implanted pacemaker. This keeps the heart beating at a steady rhythm.

Osteogenesis Imperfecta:

Osteogenesis Imperfecta is a genetic disorder that causes bones to break easily. It affects both men and women of all races and there is no cure. The condition is also known as brittle bone disease.

Symptoms Of Osteogenesis Imperfecta:

OI affects the formation of collagen. Collagen is a building block of the body. It is mainly found in bones, skin, and other connective tissues. Due to this, people with the disorder are often born with multiple fractures and deformities. This can range from breaks in the arms, to paralysis due to damage in the spinal column.

Severity of the condition can vary from person to person. Children can be born with underdeveloped bones, loose joints and muscles. Some people are also affected in their internal organs and this can cause issues such as breathing problems and irregular heart beat. Intellectual ability is not affected by the condition.

Treatment For Osteogenesis Imperfecta:

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There is no known cure for Osteogenesis Imperfecta and treatment mainly focuses on pain management. Medication can be used to control pain, and in some cases, surgical implants can be used to help stabilize bones. Severe fractures or bone deformities can often be treated with surgery. It is common for people with the disorder to need wheelchairs or other mobility assistance devices later in life.

Osteogenesis Imperfecta most commonly affects people of Northern European decent. Around 1 in 15,000 babies born have some form of OI. The chances of parents having an affected child increases with the age of the parents, with the odds being 6 in 1,000 for a 45-year-old mother and 14 in 1,000 for a father aged 55.

Insulin-dependent Diabetes is a condition where the body is unable to produce insulin. It can be treated by taking large quantities of insulin through injections or other means. The condition can lead to blindness, kidney failure, heart disease and eventually death if not properly managed. It is not known what causes the body to become unable to produce insulin.

Symptoms Of Insulin-Dependent Diabetes:

Symptoms of the condition include excessive thirst, extreme hunger and passing large volumes of urine. In more serious cases patients can develop conditions such as diabetic ketoacidosis where the body becomes toxic due to a build up of acids in the blood. This can cause vomiting, coma, and eventually death if untreated.

Treatment For Insulin-Dependent Diabetes:

Insulin may be taken by injection in smaller doses than is normally produced by the pancreas. Greater quantities of insulin can be taken through a pump that is implanted under the skin or through an infusion pump that is connected to a vein. The pancreas may be stimulated using an electrode that passes a small electrical current through it. There is also a stem cell replacement therapy which involves the transplantation of new insulin producing cells.

Insulin-dependent Diabetes mellitus affects around 346 million people worldwide, and is one of the most common endocrine disorders. It usually begins in childhood and often has serious consequences if not treated.

Pernicious Anemia is a condition where the body has a decreased number of red blood cells. These cells are essential for carrying oxygen around the body. Symptoms may include shortness of breath, lack of energy, and pale appearance. The most common cause is the body’s inability to absorb vitamin B12 from food.

Symptoms Of Pernicious Anemia:

If you have pernicious anemia, you may experience weakness and tiredness, generally feeling unwell, weight loss, and paleness. Other symptoms can include headaches, irritability, and depression. In more serious cases, there may be excessive bruising or bleeding from minor bumps. Some people experience anemia without the other symptoms.

Treatment For Pernicious Anemia:

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If diagnosed early, injections of vitamin B12 can help increase red blood cell levels and relieve symptoms. Long term, a daily tablet is necessary to prevent the disease recurring. Increasing your intake of foods rich in B12, such as dairy products and fish, can help maintain healthy levels.

Pernicious anemia is a condition where the body is unable to produce healthy red blood cells. It can lead to a number of serious conditions and complications. It is most common in people over 60, but can affect children as well as young adults.

Achromatopsia is a rare inherited eye condition that affects around 1 in every 32,000 people. It causes total colorblindness and the inability to distinguish between shades of gray. It is a recessive genetic condition, meaning both parents must have the gene for a child to inherit it. There are very few known cases of this condition.

Symptoms Of Achromatopsia:

The symptoms of achromatopsia are quite similar to total colorblindness, in that the person cannot see color at all. However, people with achromatopsia can generally tell the difference between light and dark shades, whereas total colorblind people cannot.

Treatment For Achromatopsia:

There is no treatment or cure for achromatopsia, but nowadays people are given the correct diagnosis much more quickly. In the past, many doctors mistook the symptoms for albinism or other eye conditions. Nowadays, genetic testing can also confirm the condition. The only way to improve vision is with colored contact lenses.

Achromatopsia is a very rare eye condition that affects how you see color. People with this condition can only see in black and white, which can make the world seem rather dull. It usually occurs during childhood.

Aplastic Anemia is a very extreme form of Anemia, a condition where the body doesn’t produce enough red blood cells. Unlike other types of Anemia, Aplastic Anemia causes a severe reduction in all types of blood cells. It is most commonly caused by exposure to poisonous chemicals, or the immune system attacking the body’s blood cells for unknown reasons.

Symptoms Of Aplastic Anemia:

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The onset of aplastic anemia is generally very sudden and comes with a wide range of symptoms. The most obvious being; breathlessness, dizziness, and paleness. There may also be visible bleeding, from cuts and wounds that are otherwise not serious.

Treatment for Aplastic Anemia:

There is no known cure for Aplastic Anemia, but a stem cell transplant from a compatible donor can save the patient’s life. Finding a donor can be extremely difficult, due to the rarity of the condition. Even if a donor can be found, the procedure itself is still very risky and may not work.

Aplastic anemia is a rare condition that causes the sufferer to produce almost no new blood cells. It is most commonly caused by exposure to poisons or certain medications. It can also be caused by an unknown cause, where the body starts attacking its own blood cells for some reason.

Rheumatoid Arthritis is a type of arthritis that affects small and large joints all over the body. This type of arthritis generally starts with morning stiffness and aching in the joints. These symptoms gradually get worse as more joints are effected and become severely swollen, red, and painful to move.

Symptoms Of Rheumatoid Arthritis:

The symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis usually start gradually and get progressively worse overtime. The most common symptoms are joint pain and swelling, often on just one side of the body. Morning stiffness is also a common symptom where the patient finds it difficult to move for a short period of time after waking up.

Treatment For Rheumatoid Arthritis:

There is no known cure for rheumatoid arthritis, instead treatment focuses on relieving the symptoms and preventing further damage. Medication such as anti-inflammatories and pain killers are commonly used, as well as lifestyle changes such as exercising and wearing braces on joints.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that effects the body’s connective tissues. This is a very general term used to describe a number of different tissues in the body such as cartilage, bones, tendons, and ligaments. In rheumatoid arthritis the immune system mistakenly attacks these tissues, causing them to progressively get worse and weaken.

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Bulimia is an eating disorder where people go on periods of eating a lot, then purging afterwards in an attempt to keep their weight as low as possible.

Symptoms Of Bulimia:

Bulimics typically go through three phases during an episode of their illness. The first phase is called the binge phase, this is where a sufferer will eat a lot of high calorie foods in a short space of time. The second phase is the purge phase where a sufferer will make efforts to get rid of the food they have just eaten. This can involve bringing it up, using laxatives, or other harmful methods that are considered self-harm. The last phase is the calm phase where sufferers experience feelings of guilt and shame for what they have done.

Treatment For Bulimia:

There is no medical treatment for bulimia, as the sufferers go to great lengths to hide their symptoms and avoid treatment. Instead treatment aims to help sufferers overcome their eating disorder through various therapies.

Bulimia is an eating disorder that often affects teenagers going through puberty. This is due to the rise in hormones during this period can make people feel a need to try and control their weight in some way.

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar Disorder is a mental illness where sufferers experience mood swings. Most commonly sufferers have periods of being extremely sad or extremely happy followed by periods of being normal.

The exact cause of Bipolar is unknown, however genetics and environment are both thought to play a role in the development of the disease. A traumatic event during childhood can increase the chances of a person developing the illness, as can a chemical imbalance in the brain.

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There is no cure for Bipolar, however there are various treatments to help with the symptoms and prevent relapses. Mood stabilizing medication, antipsychotics, and antidepressants are some of the most common. Therapy is also an option to help sufferers learn how to live with the disease and develop the skills needed to handle their mood swings in a healthy manner.

Symptoms Of Bipolar I Disorder:

The main symptom of bipolar is severe mood swings. This can go from periods of mania or hypomania followed by periods of depression. During manic periods a sufferer will experience an abnormally irritable mood, decreased need for sleep, excessive talking, racing thoughts, unnecessary spending, and engaging in risky behaviors. During depressive periods sufferers will experience an abnormally sad mood, loss of interest in things they once enjoyed, decreased ability to function in day-to-day life, and thoughts of suicide.

Treatment For Bipolar I Disorder:

Bipolar can be treated through a combination of medication and therapy. During depressive periods medication can help sufferers regain a sense of normality, while during manic periods medication can help stabilize the mood and prevent the sufferer from engaging in risky behavior. Therapy can also help sufferers learn how to live with the disease and develop skills to deal with their mood swings.

Bipolar II Disorder:

Bipolar II is very similar to bipolar I except during manic periods sufferers do not experience high levels of energy or an inability to sleep. Bipolar II is thought to be less severe than bipolar I, as it is easier for sufferers to function in society during manic periods. Bipolar II is thought to effect around 2.4% of the population.

Body Integrity Identity Disorder:

Body Integrity Identity Disorder (BIID) is a mental illness where sufferers have a desire to be disabled. The cause of the condition is unknown, however it is believed to be linked to childhood and adolescent development. The disorder mostly affects able-bodied people, with an estimated ratio of 25 able-bodied people for every one disabled person who has BIID. Men are more commonly affected by the disorder than women.

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People with BIID can differ in how they want to become disabled, some want to lose a specific limb, others want to be blind, deaf or an amputee. The condition can lead some sufferers to self-harm in an attempt to become disabled, however most people with the condition will seek out surgery which can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. There is no treatment for BIID.

Quick facts:

Bipolar affects around 1% of the general population.

Men are three times more likely to suffer than women.

Most sufferers are diagnosed when they are in their late teens or early twenties.

People with bipolar often experience episodes of psychosis.

Manic states in bipolar can lead to risky behavior, please contact your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms.

Most people suffering from bipolar will experience periods of depression, this can be treated with medication and therapy.

Most people with bipolar will lead normal lives if they continue treatment.

If you are a sufferer of bipolar and you feel that you or someone you know is at risk of suicide please contact your doctor immediately or call a suicide hotline.

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Thank you for watching this episode of Mental Health Month. Tune in next week to learn about a mental illness that primarily affects cats.


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Sources & references used in this article:

The LEAF questionnaire: a screening tool for the identification of female athletes at risk for the female athlete triad by A Melin, ÅB Tornberg, S Skouby, J Faber… – British Journal of …, 2014 –

Association of the female athlete triad risk assessment stratification to the development of bone stress injuries in collegiate athletes by AS Tenforde, JL Carlson, A Chang… – … American journal of …, 2017 –

Higher incidence of bone stress injuries with increasing female athlete triad–related risk factors: a prospective multisite study of exercising girls and women by MT Barrack, JC Gibbs, MJ De Souza… – … American journal of …, 2014 –

The female athlete triad: managing an acute risk to long-term health by A Nattiv, L Lynch – The Physician and Sportsmedicine, 1994 – Taylor & Francis

Risk factors for the female athlete triad among female collegiate and noncollegiate athletes by SH Thompson, M Gabriel – Physical Educator, 2004 –