Health Advice For People Living With HIV AIDS. How To Take Care Of Yourself & Live Long
Healthy Lifestyle Choices for People With HIV
Simple changes can help reduce your HIV symptoms and make you feel better overall.
By Madeline R. Vann, MPH
Medically Reviewed by Rosalyn Carson-DeWitt, MD
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An HIV diagnosis can turn your whole life upside down. Just as you become alert to HIV symptoms and find yourself faced with a new routine of doctor’s visits and medications, you may also want to make some healthy lifestyle changes that can improve your health and quality of life. Start by:
Eating a more nutritious diet.This can:
- Help you remain healthier overall despite your HIV infection.
- Slow down the progression of HIV to AIDS.
- Help prevent health problems related to malnutrition.
- Help you maintain a healthy weight and avoid the excess weight loss that can occur in HIV-infected individuals.
A healthy diet for someone living with HIV is one that is rich in whole grains, low fat dairy products, protein, and lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. Include multivitamins, especially B12 and zinc, wherever possible. Remember that a healthy diet is also about what youdon’teat: Try to cut out fried foods and sugary drinks as much as you can.
- Quitting smoking. According to the CDC nearly 18 percent of adults in the United States smoke — that rate is two to three times higher in adults with HIV. Syracuse University researchers analyzed data from 212 adults with HIV and found that people with HIV who smoked also reported having more symptoms such as coughing and dizziness.
- Stopping illicit drug use.If you are using illegal drugs such as cocaine, heroin, or methamphetamines, seek treatment for your addiction. Sharing needles to use such drugs can leave you vulnerable to other infections such as hepatitis, and that may lead to more rapid progression of HIV to AIDS. Illegal drug use could also affect the HIV disease itself. A recent study from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine demonstrated a dramatic increase in the ability of HIV to attack healthy cells when methamphetamine is present in the bloodstream. If you do continue to use injectable drugs, do not share needles with others.
- Getting moderate exercise.Being physically active three to six times a week can help improve your mood and your outlook as well as improve your overall quality of life. The benefits of exercise include fighting HIV symptoms of appetite loss and nerve pain, and reducing the risk of other chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and osteoporosis.
- Practicing safer sex.Having HIV does not mean the end of your sex life — but you should always use a new latex condom whenever you do engage in sex. This will protect your partner from your HIV infection and will protect you from sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) that can complicate your health status.
- Getting tested and treated for sexually transmitted diseases.Many people with HIV also have other STDs, even if they are asymptomatic. Get tested to find out if you have any other infections and get treated if you do.
- Taking your medications as prescribed and visiting your doctor often.Your doctor may have prescribed HIV medications to help your body’s immune system stay healthy longer. Taking those medications as prescribed, even though it may be difficult to keep up with the medication schedule, is extremely important. Taking medications on schedule is called adherence — it is important because it will reduce the risk that HIV will become drug resistant and it will also give your body the best chance at keeping the virus under control.
- Taking steps to prevent infections.If you have HIV, you can get infections more easily. Many of the healthy lifestyle steps above will help you avoid infections — for example, quitting smoking removes a significant contributor to lung infections. There are some other steps you can take to reduce common causes of infection, such as washing your hands well and often, practicing good food safety to avoid foodborne illness, and staying current on recommended vaccines.
Making these changes in your life will help you stay healthier longer, even with HIV.
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