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It appears that patients infected with the AIDS virus are susceptible to early heart conditions. According to The New York Times people with H.I.V. have heart attacks earlier in age and more often.
Experts feel that many doctors and specialist are not aware of this threat.
“I think most cardiologists and most H.I.V. specialists are not really aware of this,” said Dr. Priscilla Y. Hsue, a cardiologist at San Francisco General Hospital who treats many AIDS patients. “Most of the people I see are referred to me after they’ve had a heart attack, a bypass, a stent. To me, that’s too late. We should be screening people for coronary disease, aggressively treating blood pressure, aggressively treating cholesterol.”
A cardiologist who treats AIDS patients, Dr. Hsue says that H.I.V. positive patients are four times more likely to suffer from a sudden heart attack. She reported this in The Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
Dr. Paul M. Ridker (Harvard Medical School Professor) says that the virus and the drugs prescribed cause chronic inflammation. He also reported that the drugs can cause the liver to produce more cholesterol, which is another risk.
Another AIDS expert, Dr. Steven G. Deeks had patients that were just found dead in their home apparently from a heart attack. He was always suspicious of that.
The correlation between AIDS and high heart attack rate was stumbled upon by Dr. Zian H. Tseng while doing a survey of sudden heart attacks deaths. He noticed that many of the victims were using antiretroviral drugs.
There were some studies that did corroborate people who were H.I.V. positive did have high cholesterol and blocked arteries earlier than normal. Many patients did not even know they were in a high risk heart condition category.
One woman, Sharon Hampton started having heart problems at an early age. She thought it was from stress and being a workaholic. At 45-years-old she had a heart attack. Her health continued to get worse and then discovered she was H.I.V. positive (she was married to a man who used drugs with a needle). Hampton was a rare “elite suppressor” who can control the virus without drug for reasons unknown.
Now there is more evidence that the virus and heart conditions are related. Doctors will be able to warn their patients with more confidence now.
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