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HIV and Weight Loss - Topic Overview

Exercise

Exercise may help you feel better and strengthen your muscles. It also may improve your immune system, which can help you fight infection.

Make sure to talk with your doctor before you start your exercise program, especially if you haven't been active for a long time.

Exercise:

  • Is safe.
  • Improves strength and endurance.
  • Improves heart and lung fitness.
  • May help you feel less tired.
  • Enhances your sense of well-being.

Walking is a good way to get aerobic exercise. Start slowly if you haven't been active. Try 20 minutes a day or two 10-minute walks. Slowly increase your time. Try to walk as often as you can.

Weight lifting also can build your strength. Again, talk to your doctor first, and ask how to start a program that works for you. If you can't get to a gym, you can use soup cans or other things around the house as weights.

Competitive sports do not pose a risk of spreading HIV to other athletes or coaches. In sports in which exposure to blood can occur, the risk of spreading HIV is very small. But if a person, HIV-infected or not, starts to bleed, he or she should leave the game, and the wounds should be covered before the person returns.

Medicines

If you are not already taking antiretroviral medicines, your doctor may want you to start. You may need medicines that increase your appetite or help with nausea.

For men, hormones, such as testosterone, and anabolic steroids, such as nandrolone, may be used to help build muscle. For both men and women, growth hormone may be used.

Lipodystrophy

Taking HIV medicines can cause a problem called lipodystrophy. It is the redistribution of fat in your body.

You may lose fat from your legs, arms, buttocks, or face. But you may gain it in your stomach, chest, back of the neck, and upper shoulders.

Problems with the body's metabolism may occur along with lipodystrophy.

You may have insulin resistance. This means your body can't control your blood sugar with insulin as well as it should. This increases the chance you will get diabetes.

You may have more fats, including cholesterol and triglycerides, in your blood. This can lead to heart disease and pancreatitis.

Treatment for lipodystrophy

Doctors aren't exactly sure how to treat lipodystrophy. The TLC diet can help prevent some of the problems, such as a high cholesterol, that can be caused by treatment for HIV.1 Changing medicines also may help. Changing how you eat and getting more exercise may help build muscle and reduce the buildup of fat. A medicine called tesamorelin (Egrifta) can be used to treat fat accumulation in the belly.

Other treatments are being studied. They include liposuction to remove fat and injections or implants to replace lost fat.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: May 17, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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