THURSDAY, Feb. 27, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Half of teens who were infected with HIV at birth may face a higher risk of heart attack and stroke when they're older, new research suggests.
"These results indicate that individuals who have had HIV since birth should be monitored carefully by their health care providers for signs of cardiovascular disease," said study co-author Dr. George Siberry of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.
Other research has linked HIV infection and certain HIV medications to higher risk of heart disease. This study -- published online in the journal Circulation -- examines the potential long-term risk for teens, although it only estimates risk and doesn't track the teenagers over time.
Siberry and colleagues came to their conclusions after examining results from from the Pediatric HIV/AIDS Cohort Study, a long-term research project that has monitored children and young people infected with HIV -- the virus that causes AIDS -- since birth.
The new report is based on tests of 165 teens aged 15 or older who were born to mothers with HIV and have taken anti-HIV medication all their lives. The researchers examined their cholesterol levels, blood sugar levels, smoking habits, blood pressure and weight -- factors that predict harmful build-up and thickening in the major arteries to the heart.
About half were considered to be at higher risk of heart disease.
"It's too soon to recommend changing treatment regimens on the basis of our findings," study first author Kunjal Patel, of Harvard School of Public Health, said in a journal news release.
"Until we can learn more, we can best serve adolescents who have HIV by monitoring their risk factors for heart disease carefully and urging them to adopt other measures that have been found to reduce the risk of heart disease in the general population: exercising, maintaining a healthy diet and not smoking."
For more about HIV in children, see the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation.