Advances in HIV treatment now make it possible for people living with HIV to live a full life. Maintaining physical and mental health is essential to making the most of your life—with or without HIV.
How to Keep Your Body Healthy – The Basics
What people living with HIV need to maintain their physical health is no different than what is required for someone without HIV:
A balanced diet is one that mostly consists of vegetables and fruits, whole grains and lean meats. Sugar, salt and fat should be consumed sparingly.
Your doctor may have more specific dietary recommendations to ensure that you consume enough calories to sustain a healthy weight and get additional nutrients that can boost immune function to ward off opportunistic infections, especially in fall and winter months.
People living with HIV often suffer from weight and bone density loss. You can prevent or minimize these health issues with regular exercise. Exercise maintains (and can build) muscle, and the force exerted on bones stimulates calcium retention.
The key to getting regular exercise is choosing activities you enjoy. For some that may be hitting the gym; for others, yoga or a recreational sport may be a better fit. Ideally, you should get 30-60 minutes of exercise at least four days each week.
Social and emotional support
Poor mental health contributes to poor eating choices and lack of motivation to move your body. So, taking care of your physical health may require taking care of your mental health, too. Seeking support from friends and family, openly discussing your fears about the future and building an active social life can ward off depression and reduce anxiety.
Special Care for Bodies with HIV
Although maintaining physical health is largely the same for people with and without HIV, having a compromised immune system does present some challenges. To stay healthy, people living with HIV need to take some extra precautions, such as:
Being more mindful of washing hands when and after visiting public places
Washing your hands after touching door knobs, items in stores, etc. is one of the most effective ways to reduce your risk for opportunistic infections, especially during cold and flu season. Wearing a mask or other barriers can also reduce your risk.
Following supplement regimens (as recommended by your healthcare provider) to boost immune function
HIV compromises your immune system, but some herbs and supplements can improve immune function for better resistance to common pathogens.
Getting routine bone density screenings
Antiretroviral drugs can decrease bone density, so regular screenings can help reduce your risk of fractures and other injuries associated with osteoporosis and/or osteopenia.
UNM Truman Health Services provides the resources and services you need to maintain your physical health while living with HIV. Please contact us for more information.