HIV Linked to a Higher Risk of Heart Disease

HIV infected men have a higher risk for coronary artery disease

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) HIV patients can live longer, healthier lives today and one recent study took a look at their risk for a disease usually associated with growing older.

The study found that HIV-infected patients had a greater risk of plaque buildup in their arteries than people without HIV.

The research showed patients who have been treated for HIV long-term are more likely to show signs of a more serious heart condition.

"Consult regularly with your doctor if you are HIV positive."

This study was led by Wendy S. Post, MD, MS, professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and a professor of epidemiology at the Bloomberg School of Public Health.

The research team analyzed 618 HIV-infected men and 383 uninfected men between 40 and 70 years of age who were part of the Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study (MACS).

The researchers looked for plaque and abnormal narrowing of the heart arteries, called atherosclerosis.

The team then attempted to determine if the plaque was noncalcified, partly calcified (less than 50 percent calcified) or calcified. Coronary stenosis that narrows the artery by more than 50 percent indicates the presence of advanced plaque buildup according to the authors.

The researchers used a special contrast dye to help identify the existence of noncalcified plaque, which is not visible using standard Computed Tomography Angiography or CT angiography scan.

The authors note that the presence of noncalcified and partly calcified plaque is of particular importance because they are more likely to rupture and cause blood clots that can reduce blood flow to the heart.

The research revealed that noncalcified plaque of the heart was more prevalent and wide-ranging in HIV-infected men, which suggests they are at a greater risk of heart attack than men without HIV.

The data showed a positive association between stenosis of the heart artery among men with more advanced HIV, who had been treated longer with highly active antiretroviral treatment (HAART), a commonly prescribed mixture of multiple HIV drugs.

The authors concluded that the results verified the association between HIV-infected men and coronary artery plaque and that the results show a need to address this risk factor when working with this population, especially those men with advanced HIV.

The authors would like to continue their study of this population to measure the progression of coronary artery plaque among HIV-infected men.

The authors acknowledged that the study was limited by its inclusion of men only.

This study was first published April 1 in Annals of Internal Medicine.

This study was funded by the National Institutes of Health’s National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

Review Date: 
March 31, 2014
Last Updated:
March 31, 2014