People infected with the Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) may be at an increased risk of heart disease, a new research has warned.
It is well known that patients with HIV have a high incidence of structural heart disease (mainly diastolic dysfunction and pulmonary hypertension) but the reason is not clear, according to Dr Nieves Montoro from Madrid, Spain.
The new study included 65 HIV patients (63 per cent male, average age 48 years) who had dyspnoea (shortness of breath).
The stage of HIV was determined by measuring the CD4 count and their opportunistic diseases. Also, the viral blood load was determined.
Patients had a transthoracic echocardiogram to assess whether they had structural heart disease (ventricular hypertrophy, systolic or diastolic dysfunction, or pulmonary hypertension).
The following cardiovascular risk factors were assessed: hypertension, diabetes, smoking status, dyslipidemia and renal failure.
Nearly half of patients (47%) had some form of structural heart disease, mainly left ventricular hypertrophy, left ventricular dysfunction, pulmonary hypertension and signs of right ventricle failure.
Patients with a positive blood viral load had a significantly higher incidence of structural heart disease than those with an undetectable load, independent of their cardiovascular risk profile or type of antiretroviral therapy.
"We found that half of HIV patients with dyspnea had echocardiographic evidence of structural heart disease. Our most interesting finding was that patients with a positive blood viral load had a significantly higher incidence of structural heart disease.
"In fact, having a detectable blood viral load nearly doubled the prevalence of heart disease, suggesting that HIV itself might be an independent causal agent," Montoro said.
The amount of structural heart disease was not affected by whether or not the patient had AIDS, their gender, age, or presence of cardiovascular risk factors.
"Our study shows an association between the presence of the virus in the blood and cardiac disease. These findings open the door to the hypothesis that HIV is involved in the aetiology of cardiac damage," Montoro said.
Our findings show that having any detectable level of virus in the blood nearly doubles the risk of heart disease," she added.
The study was presented at the annual meeting of the European Association of Cardiovascular Imaging (EACVI) in Istanbul, Turkey.