If you’ve been infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), you need to be especially vigilant about keeping your immune system strong and healthy. HIV kills immune system cells called CD4 lymphocytes, or T-cells; in those who have HIV, the T-cell count can fall to dangerously low levels, leading to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). Though challenging, it’s essential that people with HIV do everything they can to get in the best physical shape possible. Following these smart lifestyle practices is a good way to start.
Eat a Healthy, Well-Balanced Diet
Maintaining a balanced, nutritious diet is even more crucial to your overall health when you’re living with HIV. A healthy diet can help keep the immune system strong, protect against illness, and possibly prevent the progression of HIV. According to Tufts University School of Medicine nutrition experts, the right diet can make it easier for the body to process the many medications that people with HIV must take, and it may even help ease common symptoms like diarrhea, nausea, and fatigue.
Avoid Alcohol and Drugs
Alcohol and recreational drugs can weaken the immune system, which is particularly hazardous for people with HIV. Alcohol and drugs can also interfere or dangerously interact with the medications that are necessary to keep HIV in check. Substance abuse can also increase the likelihood that a person is going to eat poorly and forget to takeHIV medications.
Pay Attention to Your Oral Health
Tooth and gum problems are common in people with HIV, affecting more than one-third of all HIV patients. Compromised immune systems and HIV medications make it more likely that they will have such conditions as oral warts, fever blisters, thrush, and canker sores. Many people with HIV and AIDS also experience dry mouth, which can increase the risk of cavities. HIV patients are also more likely to develop gum disease that can worsen quickly and lead to other problems such as heart disease, says the American Academy of Periodontology. Brushing and flossing regularly, and visiting the dentist at least every six months can help prevent such problems from developing.
Find Ways to Reduce Stress
Reducing stress is an essential part of staying well with HIV. The chronic stress of living with HIV can take a toll on an HIV patient’s overall health and well-being. Research at the University of California, San Francisco, has shown a clear link between stress and reduced immune system function; stress can interfere with appetite, sleep patterns, and other factors that are important for staying healthy. Some great ways to manage stress include yoga, meditation, exercise, and counseling. For best results, talk to your doctor before starting a new exercise program.
Many people with this disorder include complementary and alternative medicine therapies in theirHIV treatment plan, such as acupuncture to manage symptoms of the disease and the side effects of medications. Acupuncture, the practice of inserting very thin needles into specific points on the body, has also been shown to boost immune function. One way this may work is by reducing stress. In a study done at the Boston University School of Public Health, this disorder patients who were treated with acupuncture reported feeling more relaxed, peaceful, and calm.
Travel With Caution
If you have this disorder, your immune system is weaker, so you have to be especially careful about the food and water when traveling. While foodborne illnesses can be unpleasant and even dangerous for healthy individuals, they can cause severe complications and even death in people with this disorder or AIDS. It’s best to avoid visiting developing countries where food and water safety can be difficult to ensure and the rates of transmittable diseases are higher. When you’re planning a trip, be sure to talk to your medical care team beforehand to get advice and extra supplies of your HIV medications.
Watch Your Skin
A severe skin infection that’s resistance to treatment may be an indicator of an immune system problem such as this disorder. In fact, skin problems are often among the earliest signs of this disorder infection, and people with this disorder frequently have simultaneous or persistent skin infections. So watch your skin carefully for changes. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, common skin conditions in this disorder patients include psoriasis, hives,shingles, and impetigo, to name just a few.
See Your Gynecologist Regularly
HIV raises a woman’s risk of developing cervical cancer, so this disorder-positive women should get regular pap smears. Currently, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists suggests that women with this disorder get two pap smears in the year right after an this disorder diagnosis and then once every year after that. Women with HIV are also more likely to develop recurrent and more aggressive forms of yeast infections and pelvic inflammatory disease; report possible symptoms of these conditions to your doctor right away.
Take Your Medication on Time
Many studies have shown a link between taking this disorder medications on schedule and as prescribed — sometimes referred to as adherence to antiretroviral therapy (ART) — with an increase in a person’s level of healthy T-cells. Other studies have shown that adherence to ART is second only to T-cell count in predicting an this disorder patient’s prognosis. Skipping doses of medication or not taking this disorder medication on time has been shown to increase the likelihood of hospitalization, the progression of this disorder to AIDS, and even death.
Learn All You Can About HIV
Empower yourself and take control of your condition by learning as much as you can about this disorder and AIDS through the many resources available to you. Start by talking to your doctor. Check the Everyday Health HIV/AIDS Center and government Web sites such as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health AIDS info page. Local and online support groups can also be a great resource to get information directly from other this disorder patients.