July 3 (UPI) -- Evidence continues to grow linking HIV to cardiovascular disease, new research shows.
The risk of heart failure for people living with HIV is 3.2 times greater than for those without the infection, according to a study published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Heart Association. People with HIV also are at 2.7 times greater risk for having a stroke.
"Our findings reinforce the importance of primary prevention of cardiovascular disease through control of risk factors such as high blood pressure or smoking in persons living with HIV," Alvaro Alonso, a researcher at Emory University and study lead author, said in news release.
The researchers looked at data for nearly 20,000 people living with HIV and more than 59,000 age- and sex-matched people without the virus.
People younger than 50 with HIV have a higher likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease. However, the increased risk of heart attack and atrial fibrillation for HIV-positive people was only modest, while their increased risk of peripheral artery disease was non-existent.
Much of the cardiovascular risk comes from antiretroviral drugs, which makes people with HIV more susceptible to heart disease, heart failure and sudden cardiac failure. Roughly 42 percent of HIV-positive people also smoke cigarettes, further increasing the risk of heart disease.
A British study last year also reported people with HIV have twice the risk of a heart attack.
About 1.1 million people in the United States are living with HIV, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.