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February 2004 Issue

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Heart Disease Leads Hospital Admissions

Published February 2004

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of hospital admissions among HIV/AIDS patients, according to a recent study by Carl Fichtenbaum, MD, associate professor of clinical medicine and director of the Infectious Diseases Center at the UCMedical Center.

During 2000 and 2001, the study found that 8.5 percent of HIV/AIDS patients were admitted for cardiovascular disease, 5.8 percent for kidney disease, 5.6 percent for liver disease, and 3.4 percent for opportunistic infections.

“Our study results suggest that risk factors for cardiovascular disease should be an important consideration for physicians prescribing HIV/AIDS treatment regimens, particularly in patients over the age of 40,” said Dr. Fichtenbaum.

Eighty-one of the patients in this study were men and the median age was 45. One explanation for the prevalence of heart disease in this population is that many people who have been taking anti-retroviral therapy are living long enough to develop cardiac disease. Another theory, is that long-term use of medication may potentially cause cholesterol and triglyceride problems, or may damage the walls of arteries.

“It is much too early to determine which medications, if any, are implicated in an increased risk for heart disease,” said Dr. Fichtenbaum. “I would address cardiovascular problems very aggressively. I would encourage people with HIV not to smoke, to control their blood pressure, and to control their diabetes. I would choose medication that has the least effect on cholesterol levels.” Dr. Fichtenbaum presented his research at the 9th European AIDS Conference in Warsaw, Poland in October 2003. He was interviewed for an article titled “Heart Smart”, which was published in the December 2003 issue of A&U Magazine, a magazine for the HIV/AIDS community.

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