Once you’re diagnosed with HIV, you may want to know the lifestyle changes you need to practice to ensure that you stay healthy. Here we look at taking care of yourself with HIV.
It’s normal to get worried after discovering that you may live with the virus for the rest of your life, as it is with wanting to live to your fullest regardless of your status. Luckily, it’s not that hard to take care of yourself with HIV. Taking antiretroviral treatment for HIV, eating a nutritious, balanced diet, exercising regularly, and practicing self-care are among the ways that you can take care of yourself and lead a healthy life.
Taking Care of Yourself with HIV
Here is how you can take care of yourself with HIV and maintain a healthy body and mind as you live a normal life:
Taking Antiretroviral Treatment for HIV
After being diagnosed with HIV, you should start the treatment as soon as possible and take care of yourself to ensure your immune system stays strong. Though antiretroviral treatment isn’t an HIV cure, it keeps the virus in check.
As with most medications, you may experience side effects after starting antiretroviral treatment. However, if side effects persist or affect the quality of your life, consult your doctor for further advice.
Once you start your medication, make sure you take them regularly as prescribed for better results. Antiretroviral treatment for HIV is normally taken daily at the same time. Taking HIV medication inconsistently may prevent the medication from successfully protecting your immune system.
Taking Care of Yourself with HIV
Weight loss is one of the symptoms people with HIV experience. Fortunately, a nutritious and balanced diet can help improve your immunity and maintain good health.
Remember that there isn’t a specific diet for persons living with HIV. However, your doctor may provide you with suitable nutrition for your current state. Your doctor may also suggest that you see a dietitian once in a while to monitor your nutrition needs.
Generally, most people living with HIV benefit from a diet that includes:
- Lots of vegetables and fruits
- Protein such as eggs, fish, or lean meat
- Lots of starch such as whole grains and brown rice
- Healthy fats from avocados, nuts, or extra virgin olive oil
- Some dairy like cheese and low-fat milk
Practice hygiene measures to avoid the risk of food-borne infections whenever you prepare your food. Ensure your kitchen is clean and disinfected. Clean raw foods with running water and store your food properly. While cooking meat, ensure that it’s properly cooked before eating.
Drink plenty of fluids to keep you hydrated throughout the day. Fluids enable your body to process the medication part of HIV treatment. If your tap water isn’t fit for dreaming, switch to bottled water.
Additionally, if you’re considering taking new vitamins, herbal supplements, or minerals, ensure to consult your doctor first. Some supplements may interact with HIV medication, causing severe symptoms, hence requiring a doctor’s consent.
Another way to ensure that you feel better after starting HIV treatment is to maintain a fitness routine. Besides losing weight, persons living with HIV can also experience muscle loss. Exercising is a better way of preventing muscle loss.
To ensure that you stay fit, you can try these types of exercise:
- Resistance training
- Flexibility training
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), adults should ensure they get at least two and a half hours of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise each week. Aerobic exercise may include bike riding, brisk walk, or a leisurely swim.
You can also meet the CDC’S aerobic recommendations faster by opting for vigorous-intensity aerobics that requires more energy. Examples of aerobics requiring more energy include jogging, uphill hike, or playing soccer. However, if you plan to include vigorous-intensity aerobics in your fitness routine, consult your doctor before commencing.
The CDC also recommends resistance training at least twice per week. However, this training shouldn’t be done on consecutive days. Ensure your resistance training involves all major muscle groups, including legs, arms, abs, hips, chest, shoulders, and back.
As with high-intensity aerobics, it’s recommended that you consult your doctor before engaging in resistance training that you haven’t tried before.
There are no specific guidelines on how often you should train as per flexibility training. Flexibility training such as yoga and stretching helps relieve stress and improve your physical health.
Other than physical benefits, regular exercise can improve your social life. When you participate in physical activities such as soccer, or group workout, you get to go out and meet new people hence eradicating the feelings of loneliness.
While physical health is one way of managing life with HIV, so does your mental health. Individuals newly diagnosed with HIV are at high risk of developing mental problems such as depression.
Persons living with HIV should take care of their mental health by seeking help if they are concerned about their mental state.
One way of practicing self-care is accepting yourself and your status as you find help on living with HIV. If you’re not ready to open up to family and friends, you can join a support group where you can share your experiences with the virus. Here, you’ll make new friends with people like you who can teach you how to love and accept your new you.
However, remember that being diagnosed with HIV doesn’t mean cutting ties with HIV-negative people. In fact, you can have a healthy sexual life with an HIV-negative person without infecting them, thanks to the advances in HIV treatment. Ensure to talk to your doctor so that they can advise you on safe methods for protecting you and your partner during intercourse.
Taking Care of Yourself with HIV – Conclusion
Being diagnosed with HIV isn’t the end of you. You can practice self-care, eat a healthy balanced diet, and exercise regularly and live a long healthy life. Your status shouldn’t stand between you and your dreams or the kind of life you want to live. With proper treatment, protection, and a healthy lifestyle, you can lead a normal life like any other person.
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