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HIV Infection Increases The Risk For Heart Failure In Some HIV-Positive Men

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Published: Apr 28, 2011 1:03 pm
HIV Infection Increases The Risk For Heart Failure In Some HIV-Positive Men

Results from a recent study indicate that HIV-positive men with viral loads above 500 copies per milliliter of blood are at higher risk for heart failure than men without HIV, even after taking into account traditional risk factors for heart failure. The study did not include women.

Although they did not examine causes of heart failure, the study authors pointed out that the higher risk in HIV-positive men with higher viral loads could be due to several factors, including direct effects of the infection, heavy alcohol consumption, effects of antiretroviral therapy on risk of coronary heart disease, nutritional deficiencies, and damage to the heart muscle.

Based on their findings, the authors suggested that people with HIV try to minimize their risk factors for heart failure by losing excess weight, controlling high blood pressure, and avoiding alcohol. They also suggested that HIV-positive adults reduce their risk of heart failure by maintaining control of the virus with antiretroviral drugs.

However, they also pointed out that further studies are needed to evaluate these strategies and their impact on the risk of heart failure in people with HIV.

Heart failure is a condition in which the heart can no longer pump enough blood to the rest of the body. Symptoms include shortness of breath, fatigue, weight gain, loss of appetite, and swelling of the feet, stomach, and ankles.

Results from previous studies have found that antiretroviral drugs, particularly protease inhibitors; high viral loads (amount of HIV in the blood); and low CD4 (white blood cell) counts may be risk factors for heart failure and other heart problems in people with HIV. Additionally, alcohol consumption is a risk factor for heart failure in HIV-positive individuals.

However, it has been unclear whether higher rates of heart problems in people with HIV are due to HIV infection or higher rates of traditional risk factors for heart failure. Traditional risk factors for heart failure include older age, African-American race, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, and substance and alcohol abuse.

The authors of this study investigated whether HIV infection is associated with an increased risk for heart failure after taking into account these traditional risk factors.

The researchers examined the medical records of 8,486 male patients, 28 percent of whom were HIV infected. None of the patients had coronary heart disease at the start of the study. Patients were followed for a median of 7.3 years.

Researchers collected information on the number of patients diagnosed with heart disease as well as information on risk factors such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and history of smoking, substance abuse, or alcohol abuse. For patients with HIV, the researchers also examined viral loads and CD4 counts.

Results showed that participants with HIV who had viral loads higher than 500 copies per milliliter had more than twice the risk for heart failure compared to uninfected individuals, even after taking into account traditional risk factors.

However, HIV-positive patients with viral loads of less than 500 copies per milliliter of blood were not at a higher risk for heart failure.

Results also confirmed that traditional risk factors, including older age, African-American race, obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, and alcohol use, increased the chances of heart failure.

Participants with HIV were more likely to have hepatitis C, abuse cocaine, or smoke but were less likely to have high blood pressure or diabetes.

For more information, please see the study in the Archives of Internal Medicine (abstract).

Photo by Patrick J. Lynch on Wikipedia – some rights reserved.
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