New York: HIV patients are at a significantly higher risk of suffering from heart and blood vessel diseases as compared to those without the infection, according to a new scientific statement.
In the statement, published in the Circulation journal, the researchers indicated that the heart disease risk among HIV patients occurs due to interactions between traditional risk factors, such as diet, lifestyle and tobacco use; and HIV-specific risk factors, such as a chronically activated immune system and inflammation characteristic of chronic HIV.
"Considerable gaps exist in our knowledge about HIV-associated diseases of the heart and blood vessels, in part because HIV's transition from a fatal disease to a chronic condition is relatively recent, so long-term data on heart disease risks are limited," said Matthew J. Feinstein, lead author and Assistant Professor at Northwestern University in Chicago.
The statement, released by the American Heart Association, highlighted that tobacco use, which increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases, is common among people living with HIV.
Forty-two per cent of HIV patients were smokers, it said.
The researchers said that another risk factor is the ageing population of HIV patients as 75 per cent of HIV patients are over 45 years of age.
"Aging with HIV differs greatly from the ageing issues facing the general population," said Jules Levin, Founder and Executive Director of the National AIDS Treatment Advocacy Project.
"On average, people living with HIV who are over 60 years old have 3-7 medical conditions, including heart attacks, strokes, heart failure, kidney disease, frailty and bone diseases and many take 12-15 medications daily," Levin added.
The researchers insisted that more research is needed for informed decision-making and effective CVD prevention and treatment in the ageing population of people living with HIV.
"There is a dearth of large-scale clinical trial data on how to prevent and treat cardiovascular diseases in people living with HIV," said Feinstein.
The researchers emphasised on the importance of a healthy lifestyle that includes smoking cessation, adequate physical activity, eliminating or reducing the amount of alcohol consumed and a healthy diet.