Terrence Higgins Trust uses cookies to improve your experience of our websites. For more information or to change the use of cookies, please click here.

Accept and Close

Heart problems and HIV

whats happening inside me

Untreated HIV increases the risk of heart disease but starting treatment reduces these risks.

Is there a link between HIV and heart disease?

HIV speeds up the ageing of the immune system and inflames it, which can make cardiovascular disease more likely.

Untreated HIV increases the risk of heart disease, but starting treatment right away after diagnosis can reduce these risks. On the other hand, the risk of a heart attack increases with time in people living with HIV, regardless of their CD4 count or viral load.

Recent research has also found that diseases of old age, including cardiovascular disease (strokes and heart attacks, among others), are more prevalent in older people living with HIV.

Some antiretroviral drugs, including some protease inhibitors, may interfere with the balance of your blood fats, leading to increases in cholesterol and triglycerides (types of fat) which can lead to the clogging up of arteries. If you have any concerns relating to your antiretroviral treatment and your heart, your healthcare team will be able to advise you.

What does my heart and cardiovascular system do?

Your cardiovascular system is made up of your heart, blood vessels and the blood that carries oxygen and nutrients to all areas of your body and removes waste from them.

Cardiovascular disease includes a range of conditions which affect the heart and circulation. These include coronary heart disease (the biggest killer in the UK), stroke, deep vein thrombosis and heart attack.

What causes heart problems?

These conditions are often caused by lifestyle factors although they are sometimes genetic.

According to the British Heart Foundation, coronary heart disease (angina, heart attack and heart failure) and stroke are usually caused by a narrowing of the arteries known as atherosclerosis. This is where fatty deposits, known as atheroma, gradually build up on the walls of the arteries, making it harder for blood to get through. More about heart problems and strokes.

How can I keep my heart healthy?

Your lifestyle can increase your risk of heart disease. By stopping smoking, reducing your alcohol intake, having a healthy diet low in saturated fats, exercising regularly and addressing problems such as diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure, you can help keep your heart healthy. Ask a doctor or a nurse how much exercise you need if you're new to it.

More information & heart support:

Next: Kidney problems ››

‹‹ Back to: Diabetes and HIV



Empty Star Empty Star Empty Star Empty Star Empty Star (No votes cast) Please log in or register to vote. What's this?


Please log in or register to add this article to My favourites. What's this? Adding an article to My favourites will allow you to easily come back to it later or print it.

Your comments

You will need to be logged in before you can leave a comment.

Please log in using the form on the top right of the page or register.

The Information Standard: Certified member

This article was last reviewed on 4/1/2018 by Anna Peters

Date due for the next review: 4/1/2021

Content Author: Kerri Virani

Current Owner: Health promotion

More information:

Understanding how your heart functions
NHS Inform

Coronary heart disease
British Heart Foundation

British Heart Foundation

Coronary heart disease prevention
NHS Choices

Risk of heart attack rises with length of HIV infection regardless of age
NAM Aidsmap
Keith Alcorn

Lipids and protease inhibitors

Lipodystrophy (fat changes)

High cholesterol
NHS Choices

What causes high cholesterol?
Heart UK

Metabolic syndrome
NHS Choices

Cardiovascular diseases

HIV and your quality of life: a guide to side effects and other complications

Cardiovascular disease
British Heart Foundation

Accelerated ageing of the immune system linked to heart disease risk in women with HIV
NAM aidsmap

Reducing cardiac arrest
NAM Aidsmap

Cardiovascular risk factors among people with HIV
NAM Aidsmap

The heart
NAM aidsmap
Michael Carter

HIV, HAART and cardiac risk
NAM Aidsmap

More serious problems with antiretroviral drugs
Best Health British Medical Journal publication

How your heart works
British Heart Foundation

Coronary heart disease
NHS Choices

Coronary heart disease – Prevention
NHS Choices

HIV infection associated with an increased risk of the diseases of ageing
Michael Carter
September 2014

Your heart and circulation
British Hearth Foundation

How a healthy heart works
British Hearth Foundation