Lifestyle factors and your health

The following few pages focus on lifestyle changes that can affect your health.

The evidence for these benefits in the general population in summarised in Table 9.

As we get older, these risks and the potential to change them are just as important for HIV positive people.

The risk for all the health complications in Table 9 can be reduced by the linked lifestyle change.

These are general principles for everyone – both HIV positive and HIV negative.

Table 9: Lifestyle factors linked to serious health problems

Risk factor Health conditions
Cigarette smoking Heart disease, stroke, diabetes, numerous cancers (lung, oesophagus, mouth, pharynx, stomach, liver, pancreas, cervix, bladder, kidney, colorectal), leukaemia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), other respiratory diseases, TB.
High blood glucose (sugar) Heart disease, stroke, diabetes, renal failure, some cancers (colorectal, breast, pancreatic).
High LDL cholesterol Cardiovascular disease (heart and stroke).
High blood pressure Heart disease, stroke, hypertension, renal disease.
Obesity (high BMI) Heart disease and stroke, diabetes, some cancers (colon, kidney, breast, gallbladder).
High trans fats in diet Heart disease
High saturated fat diet Heart disease
Low omega-3 in diet Heart disease
High dietary salt Heart disease, stroke, hypertension, stomach cancer, renal failure.
Low dietary fruit and vegetables Heart disease and stroke, some cancers (colorectal, stomach, lung, oesophagus, mouth and throat).
Alcohol use (above recommended levels) [1] Heart disease and stroke, hypertension, diabetes, some cancers (liver, mouth, throat, breast, oesophagus, colorectal), cirrhosis, pancreatitis, road injuries, suicide, homicide and other injuries, alcohol use disorders.

Canadian guidelines in 2023 include that no alcohol has benefits over even small amounts. Other guidelines are likely to follow. [1]

This covers direct health benefit and related risk, such as alcohol-related accidents and violence.

  • 1 or 2 drinks a week is unlikely to have alcohol-related problems.
  • 3 to 6 drinks a weeks includes increased risks of some cancers including breast and colon.
  • 7 or more increases the risk of heart disease or stroke.
  • Each additional drink increases the risk of these and other health consequences.
Low physical activity Heart disease and stroke, breast and colon cancers, diabetes.

1. Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction. Guidance on Alcohol and Health: Final Report and Infographic. Published online . (17 January 2023).

Last updated: 1 March 2023.