June 4 (UPI) -- People living with HIV have higher rates of heart ailments, new research shows.
Antiretroviral therapy used with HIV patients also opens them up to heart disease, sudden cardiac failure, heart failure and sudden cardiac deaths compared to people without the virus, according to a scientific statement published in Circulation.
"Considerable gaps exist in our knowledge about HIV-associated diseases of the heart and blood vessels, in part because HIV's transition from a fatal disease to a chronic condition is relatively recent, so long-term data on heart disease risks are limited," said Matthew J. Feinstein, a researcher at Northwestern University who co-authored the scientific statement, said in a news release.
The HIV population not only faces health problems normally associated with the virus, such as compromised immune systems, they also deal with more common problems linked to lifestyle choices like diet and tobacco use.
According to a 2015 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, roughly 42 percent of people living with HIV smoke cigarettes, which is a major risk factor for developing heart disease.
Statistics also show that people with HIV commonly use heavy amounts of alcohol and controlled substances, have mood and anxiety disorders, and perform low levels of physical activity, which may contribute to elevated risk for heart diseases, according to the statement.
"On average, people living with HIV who are over 60 years old have 3-7 medical conditions, including heart attacks, strokes, heart failure, kidney disease, frailty and bone diseases and many take 12 to 15 medications daily," said Jules Levin, executive director of the National AIDS Treatment Advocacy Project and author of an accompanying perspective to the letter.
Since roughly 75 percent of people with HIV are older than age 45, the aging population struggles disproportionately from this problem. As a result, the community encounters more negative cardiovascular outcomes.
Overall, an estimated 1.1 million people in the United States has HIV, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"As they age, people living with HIV are often alone and disabled, emotionally homebound due to depression, and are socially isolated," Levin said. "In addition, they often suffer from lack of mobility and an impaired ability to perform normal daily functions."
"This is an area of research that is needed for informed decision-making and effective CVD prevention and treatment in the aging population of people living with HIV," Levin added.