Cardiovascular Disease, COVID-19 and People with HIV

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People with co-morbidities are at an elevated risk of developing severe symptoms from COVID-19. This applies to both people with HIV and those without HIV. Cardiovascular disease is one of the more common comorbidities.

The good news is there are some things you can do to minimise your risks associated with COVID-19, HIV, and CVD.

You have probably heard of “cardiovascular disease” before, however, you may not know what this term refers to. Unlike COVID-19 or the common cold, cardiovascular disease is not contractable or transmissible. It’s actually an umbrella term for one of several different conditions that all affect the heart and blood vessels.

What makes up “cardiovascular disease”?

Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are a group of disorders of the heart and blood vessels.

The most common and serious types of cardiovascular diseases include:

  • coronary heart disease – this is a condition of the blood vessels supplying the heart muscle;
  • stroke (cerebrovascular disease) – this is a condition of the blood vessels supplying the brain;
  • heart failure – this is a chronic, progressive condition in which the heart muscle is unable to pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs for blood and oxygen.

 These three conditions alone, contribute to nearly 25% of the burden of disease experienced by all Australians. However, there are several other cardiovascular diseases that fall under this umbrella term, such as:

  • peripheral arterial diseasethis is a condition of blood vessels supplying the arms and legs;
  • rheumatic heart diseasethis is a condition where the heart muscle and heart valves are damaged from rheumatic fever, caused by streptococcal bacteria;
  • congenital heart disease – this is a condition existing at birth that results in irregularities of heart structure.
  • deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism – this is a condition where blood clots form in the leg veins. These can dislodge and move to the heart and lungs.

What are the risk factors for cardiovascular disease?

As we discussed in our previous blog post, comorbid conditions can be the result of certain behaviours – many of which can be changed – as you may recall, these are called “modifiable risk factors”.

HIV comorbid conditions such as cardiovascular disease (CVD) are preventable in many cases, as a number of its risk factors are modifiable, such as

  •      tobacco smoking,
  •      high blood pressure,
  •      high blood cholesterol,
  •      overweight
  •      insufficient physical activity,
  •      poor nutrition and
  •      diabetes.

To reduce some of the cardiovascular risks, medication may be necessary to reduce the impacts of conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, high blood cholesterol and to prevent heart attacks and strokes. 

We understand that the amount of information about this topic can be overwhelming and sometimes we get tired of the medical messaging. But remember, there are small things that each of us can do to reduce our risk of cardiovascular-related diseases.

The following have been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease,

  •          cessation of tobacco use,
  •          reduction of salt in the diet,
  •          consuming fruits and vegetables,
  •          regular physical activity and
  •          avoiding harmful use of alcohol and other drugs

How can people with HIV reduce their risk of developing cardiovascular disease?

o   QPP’s Positively Quitting program could support you to stop smoking. Click here to find out more.

If you would like to read more about cardiovascular health, please click on each of the above links.

We will be going into more detail about these strategies in future blog posts. So keep an eye out for these in the coming weeks.