HIV patients almost two times more likely to experience heart attacks

Current predictive methods used to assess the risk of heart attack and stroke significantly underestimate the likelihood of HIV-positive patients experiencing such events.

According to a new study published in JAMA Cardiology, the risk of heart attack for patients with HIV is one and a half to two times greater compared to patients without the virus.

To establish this risk rate, researchers analyzed data from approximately 20,000 HIV-infected individuals. Then, using data from the general population, researchers predicted rates of heart attack risk. They compared this risk estimate to the actual rates of heart attacks observed in the HIV-positive cohort. The higher risk rate for people living with HIV also applied to HIV patients with no traceable amount of the virus in their blood due to antiretroviral treatment.

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Accurately assessing a patient's risk for heart attack can help determine the potential value of being treated with medications such as statins to reduce the risk of heart attack or stroke.

"If you have a higher risk for heart attack or stroke, your ability to benefit from one of these drugs is greater and justifies the possible side effects of a medication," said first author Matthew Feinstein, MD, a cardiovascular disease fellow at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.

Dr. Feinberg suggested a new predictive algorithm may be needed to determine the actual risk for heart attack and stroke in patients with HIV.

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