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
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.