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Heart problems and HIV

whats happening inside me

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

Is there a link between HIV and heart disease?

If you have HIV it is important to look after your heart. 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 can reduce these risks.

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 clog up your 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 and heart attack) 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.

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 high cholestrol and high blood pressure, you can help keep your heart healthy.

More information & heart support:

Next: Kidney problems ››

‹‹ Back to: Diabetes and HIV



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The Information Standard: Certified member

This article was last reviewed on 9/2/2015 by Anna Peters

Date due for the next review: 9/2/2018

Content Author: Kerri Virani

Current Owner: Health promotion

More information:

Cardiovascular diseases, WHO (2015)

HIV and your quality of life: a guide to side effects and other complications, i-base (2010)

Cardiovascular disease, British Heart Foundation

Accelerated ageing of the immune system linked to heart disease risk in women with HIV, NAM aidsmap (2011)

Reducing cardiac arrest, NAM, Aidsmap (2012)

Cardiovascular risk factors among people with HIV, NAM, Aidsmap (2012)

The heart, NAM, aidsmap, Michael Carter (2011)

HIV, HAART and cardiac risk, NAM, Aidsmap (2012)

More serious problems with antiretroviral drugs, Best Health British Medical Journal publication, (2012)

How your heart works, British Heart Foundation 

Coronary heart disease, NHS Choices (2013)

Coronary heart disease – Prevention, NHS Choices (2013)

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

Non-HIV-related illnesses – cardiovascular disease, Aidsmap, November 2013

Your heart and circulation, British Hearth Foundation

How a healthy heart works, British Hearth Foundation