Science notes: HIV linked to rish of heart attack

  • Updated: June 23, 2012 - 4:45 PM


People with HIV have more than four times the risk of sudden heart attack as their uninfected peers, and they have them earlier in life, cardiologists reported in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Experts said doctors need to be better informed about this little-known threat to their HIV-positive patients. The threat also reinforces a message that public health experts keep emphasizing: HIV is no longer an automatic death sentence, but it is still a dangerous disease.

"I think most cardiologists and most HIV specialists are not really aware of this," said Dr. Priscilla Hsue, a cardiologist at San Francisco General Hospital who was co-author of the report. "Most of the people I see are referred to me after they've had a heart attack, a bypass, a stent. To me, that's too late. We should be screening people for coronary disease, aggressively treating blood pressure, aggressively treating cholesterol."

The most likely explanation is that both the virus and the drugs that fight it cause chronic inflammation, said Dr. Paul Ridker, a Harvard Medical School professor who led pioneering studies that established the connection between inflammation and heart disease but was not involved in the new study. Inflammation can produce blood clots, which can cause heart attacks.

"I didn't know I had a heart problem until I had a heart attack and a double bypass in 2003," said Mark Abramson, 59, author of the "Beach Reading" series of gay mystery/romance novels. Although he saw doctors and was intermittently taking AIDS medication when he had medical insurance during his years as a bartender, "no one told me I was in a high-risk group."


Known for its bitter taste and potent effects, ginseng has for ages had a reputation as a natural energy booster. Now there is some evidence that ginseng's claim to fight fatigue may be deserved.

In a randomized double-blind study with 290 cancer patients at the Mayo Clinic in 2010, more than twice as many patients taking 1,000 or 2,000 milligrams of ginseng a day reported less fatigue and more energy after eight weeks compared with those given a placebo. In another large study, presented to the American Society of Clinical Oncology, the same researchers found that cancer patients given 1,000 milligrams twice a day for two weeks saw significant improvements in fatigue compared with a placebo group.


Drinking, smoking and recreational drugs probably will not reduce a man's fertility, a study suggests -- but wearing jockey shorts instead of boxers might.

British researchers studied 2,249 men who visited fertility clinics after a year of trying unsuccessfully to impregnate a partner. The scientists categorized 939 of them as having abnormally low sperm count or motility. Some unalterable factors were associated with reduced fertility: nonwhite race, testicular surgery, older age, a mumps infection after age 13 and a two-week fever within the past three months.

Among modifiable behaviors, manual work and wearing jockey shorts were also associated with abnormal counts. "There are lots of recommendations about what men should do to improve their fertility," said Andrew Povey, an epidemiologist at the University of Manchester and lead author of the report posted online in the journal Human Reproduction. "But there's very little good evidence that any of them work. If a man wants to do something, changing from jockey shorts to boxer shorts may help."


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