By Sally Perkins
Keeping On Top of Things: Lifestyle, Diet, and Health Choices with HIV/AIDS
For those living with HIV/AIDS, whether themselves or a loved one, the condition touches all areas of life and requires careful management. It’s perfectly possible to still enjoy life to the full, but might require a bit more thought than the average person about your lifestyle, diet and health. Minor infections and illnesses which an HIV-negative person would brush off and recover from easily can lead to more serious complications in someone HIV-positive, so while having a positive attitude is important, it’s also essential to be prepared for when times are rough.
It is fairly common for those who are HIV-positive to have another long-term health condition, such as epilepsy or diabetes. Developing additional health problems is a fact of life as we age, but it can have more serious connotations for seniors who are HIV-positive. Problems with the cardiovascular system, arthritis, or the heart are more likely, so in tandem with HIV, managing health and preparing for different eventualities is important.
· Keep an open dialogue with your doctor about your conditions and medications.
· Consider a medical alert system, so that there is help at the touch of a button for you or your loved one. HIV/AIDS-positive patients can be affected very quickly by common illnesses, especially later in life.
· Wearable medical information tags can help to provide vital information to healthcare professionals when time is of the essence.
· Track your medications on a smartphone app to make sure you’re not forgetting to take a dose.
Being proactive about your condition, health, and lifestyle will hopefully mean that you do not need to use these interventions, but it is always best to be prepared.
What’s for dinner?
Managing your health through diet and lifestyle is a very useful and effective approach. Aiming to eat a balanced diet to provide enough nutrients and maintain a healthy weight is a good place to start: it is easy to become underweight or overweight through illness or mental difficulties and the right diet can help to fix this. Getting enough vitamins and nutrients can help your body to both fight off illness and infection, but also to process the medications required for HIV and ease common symptoms like diarrhea, nausea, and fatigue. Reducing or eliminating intake of alcohol, recreational drugs, and smoking is also a good idea.
Getting regular exercise is important for everyone, helping to build and condition muscles, to burn fat, to keep your heart and lungs healthy, and reduce the likelihood of a whole range of medical conditions. This can be especially beneficial for HIV-positive people, and doesn’t need to be daunting or difficult – just a half hour walk each day can do the trick – and can even be a fun social event if you make it a group activity.
While there is currently no cure for HIV/AIDS, with a combination of medication and lifestyle approaches it can be successfully managed. Prepare for the downsides and hope for the best, and give yourself the best chance by eating, exercising, and living well.