"It is well known that patients with human immunodeficiency have a high incidence of structural heart disease -- mainly diastolic dysfunction and pulmonary hypertension -- as measured by echocardiography but the reason is not clear," Dr. Nieves Montoro of Madrid said in a statement.
"We decided to conduct a study to evaluate whether the stage of HIV or the detectable blood viral load were related to the degree of heart disease."
The study included 65 HIV patients -- 63 percent male, average age 48 -- who had shortness of breath. The stage of human immunodeficiency virus, which causes AIDS, was determined by measuring the CD4 count and their opportunistic diseases. Also, the viral blood load was determined.
Patients had a transthoracic echocardiogram -- images made of the heart pumping -- to assess whether they had structural heart disease. The following cardiovascular risk factors were also assessed: hypertension, diabetes, smoking status and renal failure.
Forty-seven percent of the subjects had some form of structural heart disease and patients with a positive blood viral load had a significantly higher incidence of structural heart disease than those with an undetectable load, the study said.
The findings were presented at the annual meeting of the European Association of Cardiovascular Imaging, a registered branch of the European Society of Cardiology in Istanbul, Turkey.