People with HIV have an added risk of heart failure, so they and their health care providers need to be alert for early signs such as shortness of breath, fatigue, leg swelling, coughing and chest pain, according to a new study.
Even HIV patients who keep their viral load low with antiretroviral therapy (ART) and don’t have anything that makes them more prone to heart disease, such as diabetes have a 1.5 to 2 times higher chance of heart attack or stroke.
“Cardiovascular disease has been an important concern for people with HIV for many, many years,” senior author Michael Silverberg said in a Kaiser Permanente news release. He’s a research scientist and HIV epidemiologist at Kaiser’s Division of Research in Oakland, Calif.
While most of the research has focused on the risk of stroke and heart attacks, this study shows that the heart impacts for people with HIV extend to end-stage conditions such as heart failure, Silverberg says.
The study included nearly 39,000 Kaiser patients with HIV and about 10 times that number without HIV. Those with HIV were 68% more likely to develop heart failure, and the highest risk was among people 40 or younger, women and Asian/Pacific Islanders, researchers found.
“In terms of young people, it’s possible that they had fewer other complicating health issues, which made heart failure stand out,” says first author Dr. Alan Go, a senior research scientist at Kaiser.
Why are HIV patients at higher risk for heart disease?
He notes that early data suggest HIV may have a greater impact on heart function in women than in men, due in part to hormones and an abnormal thickening and scarring of heart tissue known as cardiac fibrosis. But, Go adds, more study is needed.
“And, overall, not a lot is known about cardiac issues and HIV among Asians and Pacific Islanders,” he said in the release.
The study accounted for heart disease risk factors and medications to prevent heart problems, researchers said.
“Our study showed that the higher risk wasn’t due to differences in access to care,” Go shares. “They were all getting the highest-quality care.”
The study also found that the added risk among people with HIV wasn’t because they had more heart disease risk factors or had more