HIV –Human immunodeficiency virus has become a major topic over the years in the health sector and beyond.
HIV is a virus that attacks our immune system. The immune system helps our body fight against diseases. If your immune system is not strong, your body will have difficulties fighting diseases.
HIV infects and destroys the white blood cells called CD4+ cells and if too many of this cells are destroyed, your body would be susceptible to every kind of infection.
The last stage of this virus is AIDS- Acquired Immunodeficiency Virus. People living with AIDS have low numbers of CD4+ cells and they get infections that rarely occur in healthy people.
However, that you are living with HIV doesn’t mean you also have AIDS. It usually takes HIV 10 to 12 years to progress to AIDS even when not treated.
When HIV is diagnosed, medicines can be taken to stop or reduce the damage that has been done to the immune system. In the situation whereby AIDS has been developed. Medicines will be taken to return the immune system to a healthier state.
With these treatments, people living with HIV can live a healthy life just like others.
However, living a healthy life if you have this virus goes beyond taking your medications regularly, exercises, diet and lifestyle also play a vital role in keeping you healthy and fit.
Eating plan for people living with HIV
There is really no specific kind of diet plan for people who are living with this virus, all you need is to eat healthy foods. The virus weakens the immune system and you need nutritious foods to fuel your immune system.
Eating nutritious foods would help your body defend itself against diseases, boost your energy and keep you feeling strong.
Just follow these simple diet tips;
- Eat fruits and vegetables
These kinds of foods are high in nutrients that are good for the body. They supply the body essential vitamins and minerals. They are high in antioxidants which protects your body from different kinds of diseases.
At each meal, fill half your plate with fruits and veggies, and use varieties, this will supply you with all the nutrients you need.
- Eat lean protein
Your body needs protein to build lean muscle and a strong immune system. You will need to eat more protein if you are underweight or if you are in an advanced stage of HIV.
Your physician will tell you the right amount you need.
Go for low-fat options like, egg, lean beef, nuts, poultry and beans.
- Eat healthy fats moderately
Healthy fats provide energy but they are also high in calories, so if you are not trying to add weight, you should eat this moderately.
Heart healthy fats include avocados, nuts and vegetable oils.
- Eat whole grains
Carbs fuel your body with energy. Eat whole grain carbs like brown rice and whole wheat bread, they are loaded with energy boosting B vitamins and fiber.
Consuming plenty of fiber can prevent you from getting fat deposits known as lipodystrophy, a side effect of HIV.
- Limit sugar and salt intake
HIV increases your risk of getting heart diseases. This may be caused by the virus or the medications you are taking.
Too much sugar and sodium can increase the risk of heart disease. So aim to consume less of these.
- Get the right amount of calories
If you have unwanted weight loss, your health care provider would recommend supplements for you. Ensure you take the right amount of calorie your body needs.
- Drink plenty of fluids
A lot of people don’t take enough fluids. Liquids helps transport nutrients throughout your body and helps flush out used medications from your body.
Fluids prevent you from getting dehydrated and help lift your energy. Drink lots of water or healthy liquids throughout the day.
Exercise for people living with HIV
Being physically active is essential for everyone for good and sound health. Exercise cannot fight or treat HIV but it can help prevent side effects of the virus and its medication from occurring.
Exercise also helps you live a healthier life as you grow older with HIV.
Exercising offers people living with HIV many benefits such as;
- Improve muscle mass, strength and endurance
- Decrease stress
- Enhance your sense of well being
- Improve appetite
- Reduce fat in the abdomen
- Enhances sleep
- Increase bone strength
- Improve heart and lung endurance
- Increases energy level
- Increase good cholesterol (HDL)
- Reduces bad cholesterol (LDL) and triglycerides
A combination of aerobic and resistance exercises, three times a weekly for at least six weeks, is recommended to improve cardiovascular, metabolic and muscle function in people living with HIV older than 50 years of age.
- Aerobic exercises
Aerobic exercises strengthens the lungs and the heart. Forms of aerobic exercises include jogging, running, hiking, walking swimming and cycling.
This exercises increases the rate and depth of your breathing, and this in turn increases the amount of blood and oxygen your heart pumps to your muscles.
To achieve the maximum benefit of aerobic exercises, your heart rate as to reach the target rate for at least 20 minutes. It may take you weeks to reach this level if you haven’t really being exercising before.
- Resistant training
This kind of exercise is very good for HIV patients because it helps offset muscle loss which is caused by the virus.
Resistance training involves exertion of force by moving (pushing or pulling) objects that has weight. The objects can be barbells, machines in gyms or dumbbells.
You can also make use of safe, common household objects such as plastic containers filled with water or sand, or you can make use of your own body weight in exercises such as push-ups or pull-ups. The purpose of this exercise is to build muscle mass.
Make sure you use the right amount of weight for the exercise you are performing. It is important that you do not feel pain during the exercise.
When you are starting a resistance training program, you will probably feel a little sore for a day or two, but you shouldn’t feel too sore to limit your regular activities. If you find out that you do feel very sore, it means you have used too much weight or you have done too many repetitions.
Make sure you rest a day more and start again using less weight.
When starting an exercise program, begin slowly and build. Start your exercise session with a warm up.
Your warm up can be as short as just a few stretches, if you are going to work out later in the day when your muscles and joints are already loose. It can also be a short 10-minute stretch session if your work out is first thing in the morning, when your muscles and joints are still tight.
The purpose of your warm up is not to make you weak but invigorate you and decrease the risk of joint or muscle injury.
A balanced exercise program is best for you. You can start with an aerobic exercise as a good warmup to a resistance training session.
Also don’t forget that learning the correct form in a weight training program will reduce the chance of you getting an injury. Go at your own pace. You are not in completion with anybody. Listen to your body. If your work out hurts, stop it.
Risks of exercise
- You can become dehydrated if you do not drink enough fluids
- You can develop injuries which may take time to heal
- You may lose body mass if you overdo your exercise
- The wrong form exercise will cause you to be injured
When starting an exercise program, you should have these important things in mind;
- Drink water
Drink water before you start your exercise, during your exercise and after your exercise. If you are feeling thirsty, you have already lost important fluids and electrolytes and you may be dehydrated.
- Eat nutritious food
In order to build your muscle stronger, exercise tears it down. You need nutritious foods to supply the raw materials needed to build your muscles.
- Get enough sleep
Get enough sleep, your body needs it.
Asides exercising, taking your treatments and eating nutritious foods, there are also some lifestyle changes you need to make so as to live a healthy life.
These changes include;
- Quit smoking
People living with HIV, who smoke have more HIV symptoms like coughing and dizziness.
- Stop illicit drug use
If you use illegal drugs such as cocaine, stop it or seek attention for your addiction. Sharing needles for the use of such drugs will make you vulnerable to other infections like hepatitis.
- Practice safer sex
That you have HIV doesn’t mean the end of your sex life as come. You should always use a new condom whenever you want to have sex. This is to prevent your partner from being infected with the virus.
When you find out you are living with HIV, you will be troubled, angry, depressed, but you should know that having this does not mean you are going to die.
Taking your treatments regularly, making the necessary lifestyle changes, exercising and eating nutritious foods is the key to a healthy life.