heart attacks. In fact, people with HIV had fewer heart disease risk factors than those without HIV, the study found.
“The immune system responds to any infection. In a chronic viral infection like HIV, it’s thought that in the course of keeping HIV under control, there could be some off-target effects,” says Dr. Judith Currier, chief of the infectious diseases division at the University of California, Los Angeles’s David Geffen School of Medicine.
“In other words, the immune system is activated to control HIV and in the process of that activation, it could be increasing the risk for heart disease,” Currier adds. Chronic inflammation is linked to the buildup of fatty plaque in the arteries, a risk factor for heart disease, according to the American Heart Association.
The authors said their findings show the need to monitor people with HIV for early signs of heart disease.
“HIV patients often receive all of their care in busy HIV primary care clinics, and it is possible that signs and symptoms of heart failure may be missed, resulting in delays in treatment,” Silverberg notes.
He added that there’s a need to learn more so doctors can intervene earlier.
Preventing heart disease
The first step to preventing heart disease to talk to your doctor about your health history as well as any drugs and medications you are taking (including supplements and recreational drugs). This is important because HIV treatment can complicate the treatment of things that raise your risk of heart attack or stroke.
From there, you can do the following things to lower, your risk of developing heart disease:
- Exercise: Regular exercise can lower your blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and body weight.
- Don’t smoke: Smoking is one of the biggest causes of heart disease, so if you smoke, quit.
- Abstain from alcohol: If must have a drink, it’s best to keep it to no more than a drink a day for women, two for men.
- Maintain a healthy weight: If you’re carrying too many or too few pounds, consult with your doctor about what a healthy weight is and the best way to reach it.
- Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet: Getting an adequate amount of nutrients helps your body fight disease and keeps you at a healthy weight.