“I had no idea that since I have HIV, I may be twice as likely to have a heart event compared to the general population,” said Frank Carroll, a 63-year-old man who has been living with HIV for over two decades.
Unfortunately, that is the case for the majority of people who are living with HIV. Up to this point, there has been very little research conducted regarding heart disease and HIV, but here is what we do know:
Kathleen Fitch, MSN, FNP
People with HIV often have what is known as “inflamed non-calcified plaque” buildup in the heart. This plaque is considered “high risk” plaque because it is a leading risk factor for heart disease. This is important to know because “inflamed non-calcified plaque” is extremely vulnerable to rupture and that can lead to a sudden heart event, such as a heart attack. Traditional risk factors, including high blood pressure and high cholesterol, are well-known contributors to heart disease for those with HIV and the general population. However, an additional and significant HIV-related risk factor for developing heart disease is constant activation of the immune system; this happens even with antiretroviral therapy and when the virus is undetectable.