When living with HIV, it is particularly important to look after your heart. Studies have found that heart disease, including heart attacks and strokes, are more common in people living with HIV. Heart disease can have many different causes, and some can be changed in order to reduce your risk of developing complications.
You can make some changes to both your diet and lifestyle to take positive steps towards improving your heart health. Some of these changes include:
When making changes to your diet, try making small adjustments over time, rather than setting yourself unrealistic goals. Changes can take time to achieve so don’t be too hard on yourself at first.
It is important to cut down on the amount of fat in the diet and aim to swap saturated fats for unsaturated fats. Lowering your saturated fat intake will reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, a type of heart disease caused by a build-up of fatty material in the arteries which can lead to heart attack and angina. The average man should have no more than 30g saturated fat a day whilst women should have no more than 20g.
Some simple ways to reduce saturated fats in our diet include:
Research suggests that including 25g of soya in the diet per day is good for heart health as soya products such as soya milk and tofu are low in saturated fat. You can find more tips on how to reduce the saturated fat in your diet here.
This advice may not apply if you are losing weight unintentionally or are underweight so speak to your dietitian for further advice.
Studies suggest that people who eat a diet rich in a wide variety of fruits and vegetables may reduce their risk of heart disease. Aim to eat a rainbow of colours and at least five portions of fruits and vegetables per day.
Ways to increase fruit and vegetable intake daily include:
This could be sardines on toast or grilled fresh fish such as mackerel, salmon or kippers. Eating oily fish can help to reduce the risk of heart disease due to the omega 3 levels in these fish. For those that don’t like fish, discuss with your clinicians the possibility of taking a fish oil supplement or opting for plant based omega 3 sources.
Having too much salt is linked to increased blood pressure which can put you at risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Try to limit your salt intake to less than 6g per day, the equivalent of approximately 1 teaspoon. You can add flavour to your meals by using herbs, spices or lemon juice instead and watch out for hidden salt in pre-packaged foods such as pastries, ready meals and crisps.
Try to include more of the following:
Hypertension from the British Heart Foundation
What does a healthy blood pressure reading look like?
What is a healthy BMI using the NHS calculator?
Healthy Living from the British Heart Foundation