Heart disease risks increase with age in both non-HIV and those with HIV as they age. How do we change this? Eating a better diet, getting plenty of exercises, and adequate rest at night is the first step.
Why HIV patients are at higher risk for cardiovascular disease
Having HIV you are at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease. Either from long-term exposure to the HIV virus, the antiretroviral drugs, or some other factors, people with HIV regularly share similar issues that affect cardiovascular health, such as:
- Higher triglyceride levels which can cause arterial problems
- Reduced levels of HDL the good cholesterol
- Chronic inflammation inflamed arteries trap more plaque, as well as signal the body to dump more t-cells to fight infection but with HIV the t-cells are in short supply.
- Smoking 60% to 70% of HIV patients still smoke which may build up fatty deposits in the arteries
- Atherosclerosis (buildup of fatty deposits as well as others in and on the artery wall) puts more strain on the heart.
- Kidney failure research continues on this but it is becoming clear that people with HIV are at a higher risk for kidney disease. Because kidneys help stabilize blood pressure, they are an important part of cardiovascular health. They also filter waste from your body fluids. Unfortunately, HIV virus can damage the tubules or filters of the kidneys. Also, there is evidence that some of the antiretroviral medications can damage the kidneys, but kidney failure is more common among those not taking antiretroviral medicines than those who are. Protein in the urine can signal issues with reabsorption in the tubules. Roughly 30% of HIV-positive persons have protein in the urine.
- Diabetes contributes to both heart disease and stroke; you will need to work with your doctor to minimize your risk of diabetes.
Ways to minimize your risks
- Stop smoking, especially if you have other health issues. The more health issues you have on top of smoking greatly increases your risk for heart disease as well as cancer
- Get active walking is a great start, it helps you drop weight as well as gives you a cardiovascular workout. Start out slow a half mile twice a day and build up to 2 miles, take various routes that are not completely flat some hills help with the cardiovascular workout. Yoga or Pilates is also another exercise that can help you distress and tone your muscles. See your doctor first, get evaluated as to what type of exercise you can start out with, then if you need to go to the local gym and work with a trainer be sure to show them your health evaluation, they can help you build an exercise plan that fits you.
- Both cholesterol and blood pressure should be controlled
- Eat healthy
- Reduce blood sugar
- Maintain a healthy weight
Slowly add 2 or 3 new heart-healthy recipes to your menu a week. Park farther away from the store, take the stairs instead of the elevator, or join a gym. Set small goals like losing 10% of your body weight you can lower your blood pressure and blood sugar.