Guides

Age, HIV drugs and heart disease

Heart

Most HIV drugs are very safe for your heart – and they reduce the risk from HIV-related heart disease. 

The biggest risks for heart disease are smoking, poor diet and low exercise. As with HIV negative people, lifestyle changes to reduce your risk of heart disease is good advice if you are HIV positive.

Of these, stopping smoking has the biggest impact on long term health. The NHS has lots of support for quitting, including online and from your GP.

NHS Live Well: 10 self-help tips to stop smoking

High cholesterol can be an independent risk and this is included in HIV monitoring.

Other risk factors include: age (over 45 for men and over 55 for women), sex (male), family history of heart disease, alcohol use, high blood pressure and diabetes.

HIV drugs linked to heart disease are abacavir, maraviroc and darunavir. Also, some older drugs that are now rarely used (ddI, fosamprenavir/r, lopinavir/r and saquinavir/r).

Your HIV doctor should check your risk of heart disease when you are first diagnosed, before ART and then every year. Using alternative drugs is important if your heart disease risk is high.

BHIVA recommend several online risk calculators:

The q-intervention calculator also looks at risk for type-2 diabetes.

As with HIV negative people, lifestyle changes to reduce your risk of heart disease is good advice if you are HIV positive.

The mind is very complex. I think the child in me had wished this nasty thing away for so long – acknowledging yet not acknowledging.

— Faith, Luton

Last updated: 1 October 2019.