HIV and Heart Disease

A recent study, underscoring the link between HIV and heart disease, has provided interesting findings. Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the US, with men having a slightly greater risk of developing the condition than women. However, people who have an even greater risk of developing heart disease are those who are infected with HIV. The link between HIV and heart disease is especially pronounced, in regard to plaque buildup in the arteries and actual heart attacks. Moreover, just like heart disease in the general population, men who are infected with HIV have a higher risk of heart disease than women.

Hundreds of HIV infected men, and a control group not infected with the virus, were studied. Background information was also taken into consideration, such as smoking and lifestyle. Advanced scanning techniques were used to gather images of the participants’ arteries, particularly the coronary arteries. These images were used to determine if plaque or a stenosis had developed. Researchers found that those who were HIV-positive had a higher rate of both of these conditions. When it came to non-calcified plaque, those with HIV showed higher rates and greater build-up. This can be dangerous, as this type of plaque buildup can rupture or break free. When this happens, it can cause a blockage in a vessel or even a heart attack. Those who had later stages of HIV, and who were also taking antiretroviral medications, had the most cases of heart disease as well as the most severe cases.

Exactly why HIV and heart disease present together and so often is not yet known. Researchers fully intend to keep investigating. However, now that it is clear what types of disease manifest themselves in men who test positive for HIV, physicians can keep a close eye on their vascular system in order to catch early signs of heart disease.