Cardiovascular disease is a serious problem for Americans, including those living with HIV. Here’s why you should be keeping a close eye on that heart of yours if you are HIV-positive.
Why HIV Affects Heart Health
There are a few reasons why people living with HIV are at a higher risk of developing heart disease, the primary one being the medication used to control the virus. Long term exposure to antiretroviral treatment and other factors associated with HIV can negatively impact cardiovascular health in a number of ways:
- Smoking; HIV+ individuals are more likely to use tobacco and other substances which can weaken heart health
- Bad Cholesterol; HIV treatment can cause nutritional deficiencies. Lack of nutritional balance in the diet can lead to higher levels of bad cholesterol
- High Triglyceride Levels; HIV-positive individuals are more likely to have higher triglyceride levels, which can negatively impact heart health.
- Chronic Inflammation; Long term exposure to HIV can cause inflammation of the arteries and veins – this puts more strain on the heart and reduces its ability to clear away buildup in the arteries.
- Kidney Function; HIV can cause the kidneys to function less efficiently, which can affect blood pressure.
- Nutrition; A healthy and balanced diet can help HIV+ individuals avoid conditions that affect cardiovascular health, like diabetes.
Men at are a higher risk of cardiovascular disease than women, especially if they are HIV+. If you are living with HIV, it is important to get regular cardiovascular checkups with a doctor that specializes in HIV. At UNM Truman Health Services, we can connect you with an Albuquerque physician who can monitor and help you improve heart health.
Protecting Heart Health
The heart is a muscle that requires care, just like the rest of your body. If you are living with HIV, there are a few things you can do to improve heart health:
- Eat nutritiously
- Exercise regularly (at least 3x a week for 30 minutes)
- Practice medication adherence
- Quit smoking
- Minimize stress
- Sleep well (8 hours a night is recommended)
UNM Truman Health Services is your resource for healthy habits while living with HIV in Albuquerque. We have smoking cessation programs, exercise groups, and an onsite pharmacy to make the transition to a healthier lifestyle as seamless and convenient as possible.
Honor your heart this month by creating healthy habits for the future! It is National Heart Health Month, after all. Contact us today to learn how UNM Truman can help improve your cardiovascular health!