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HIV May Raise Risk of Heart Attacks by 50 Percent

Update Date: Mar 05, 2013 01:34 PM EST

HIV is no longer the death sentence that it once was, with antiretroviral therapy allowing infected individuals to live long lives and, in the case of at least one infant, serve as a functional cure. However, as much as progress has been made in the fight against HIV, the disease carries an increased burden of other conditions and diseases. In one study conducted by researchers from the University of Pittsburgh, Yale University and the West Haven Veterans Administration Medical Center, among others, researchers found that HIV patients had at least a 50 percent elevated risk of suffering from a heart attack than non-HIV infected individuals.

According to Forbes, the study was conducted using data from 82,459 individuals who were enrolled in the Veterans Aging Cohort Study Virtual Cohort. The vast majority of the veterans were men. Of the total group, 27,350 of the individuals were HIV-positive. The researchers tracked the veterans for an average of 5.9 years.

The study found that individuals infected with HIV were 50 percent more likely to suffer from an acute myocardial infraction than individuals without the disease. This link existed even for people whose blood indicated low levels of the virus. In fact, the study suggested that recent bouts of antiretroviral therapy was linked with an elevated risk of a heart attack. This link existed even after researchers adjusted for factors like alcohol consumption and smoking, as well as risk factors like high blood pressure and cholesterol.

According to AFP, research suggests that this link exists because of the constant activation of the immune system against HIV before antiretroviral therapy. This inflammation may speed up the aging process, thus leaving the individual more susceptible to aging-related illnesses. Regardless, researchers are not sure about the source of the risk, so more research needs to be conducted on that matter, as well as ways to reduce the risk of heart attack in HIV-infected individuals.

MedPage Today reports that, because many of the veterans were male, the results may not apply to females.

The study did not find that HIV-infected individuals had heart attacks sooner in life than their counterparts.

The study was published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, formerly the Archives of Internal Medicine.

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