"Food insecurity is a common problem among people with cardiovascular disease, and we are seeing that issue become even more prevalent in recent years," said lead author Dr. Eric Brandt. He's a cardiologist at the University of Michigan Health Frankel Cardiovascular Center.
About 38% of people who have heart disease did not have regular access to food in 2017-2018, researchers discovered while analyzing data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. That survey included 312 million American adults.
When researchers looked at food insecurity and heart disease from 20 years prior, they found that number was much lower, at just over 16%.
"We believe there is a two-way relationship here. Individuals who are food insecure may have increased risk for cardiovascular disease, and vice versa," Brandt said in a Michigan Health news release.
"When one acquires heart disease, it impacts one's risk for developing socioeconomic problems that could reduce access to adequate and quality food," he explained. "Food insecurity can often occur with other social determinants of health, such as poor transportation access or access to health care, which further compounds this relationship."
The circumstances were more dire for Black and Hispanic adults, who were more likely to report they went hungry.
Since 2011, 24% of Hispanic adults and 18% of Black adults were short of food, the study found. This compared to 8% of Asian adults and 13% of white adults.
Moreover, adults who have heart disease are more than two times more likely to have empty cupboards than those without it, the authors said. And diet contributes to death from heart disease.
"Food insecurity has the potential to exacerbate existing racial and ethnic health disparities," Brandt said. "But there is also a public realization here that differences in cardiovascular outcomes across races and ethnicities aren't related to the racial or ethnic origin of an individual, rather more to the social experience of an individual."
People who don't have enough food are more likely to be stressed and not take prescription medication to treat risk factors, such as diabetes and high blood pressure, the researchers noted.
Clinicians and health systems need to use validated screening techniques to assess hunger issues among patients, they said.
The findings were published Sept. 28 in JAMA Cardiology.
The American Heart Association has more on cardiovascular disease.
SOURCE: Michigan Medicine – University of Michigan, news release, Sept. 28, 2022