Lipids: (that’s blood fats to you and me). Our bodies need lipids to live—but too much, and our risk for stroke and heart disease goes up. HIV and some HIV meds, as well as poor diet and not enough exercise, are causes.
Triglycerides: The most common fats in our diets.
LDL cholesterol: The “bad” cholesterol that clogs the arteries. (LDL stands for low-density lipoprotein.)
HDL cholesterol: Unlike the last two, you want higher levels of this “good” cholesterol (or high-density lipoprotein), which keeps your heart and arteries healthy.
Test Tip: If your LDL or triglycerides are too high, you need to go on a lower-fat diet, get more exercise and (possibly) take fat-lowering drugs like atorvastatin (Lipitor). You may also need to switch your HIV meds.
KIDNEYS Keep an eye on the following:
Creatinine clearance or glomular filtration rate: These measure your kidneys’ ability to remove creatinine, a muscle waste product, from your blood. Lab tests showing slower removal could mean kidney disease.
Protein analysis: Damaged kidneys can flush too much protein out of the body. A color-coded dipstick test can be used to check for too much protein (proteinuria) in your urine.
Blood pressure: High blood pressure can cause kidney damage—and can also be a sign of it. Keeping yours below 120 over 80 is recommended.
Glucose: Blood sugar levels done on an empty stomach (nothing but water for eight hours before) can check for diabetes, a major kidney disease risk factor.
Your body depends on this football-sized organ to clear toxins (that includes meds) out of the blood. The measures to watch include:
Liver enzymes: High measurements of ALT, AST, bilirubin and others are signs of a liver working overtime. Hepatitis infections may be a factor and Hep C and B are common among people with HIV, so get tested. Many meds can stress the liver. Mildly abnormal enzyme levels may be OK, but constant and very high levels may be saying that a switch is needed (especially for folks with HIV and hepatitis, whose livers are already under stress). If blood work shows liver stress, lay off the alcohol—it takes a toll.