Rate of food insecurity skyrockets for Americans with cardiovascular disease, study finds

Diet is the greatest contributor to death from cardiovascular disease.

11:30 AM

Author | Noah Fromson

woman holding groceries in bag
Getty Images

The number of Americans with cardiovascular disease who are food insecure – having limited or uncertain access to adequate food – has skyrocketed over the last 20 years, a national study finds.

A Michigan Medicine team analyzed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey representing 312 million American adults between 1999 and 2018, finding that 38% of people with cardiovascular disease were food insecure in 2017-2018. That number has more than doubled from two decades earlier, when the rate of food insecurity was 16.3%. The findings are published in JAMA Cardiology.

"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 Eric J. Brandt, M.D., M.H.S., FACC, lead author of the study and a cardiologist at the University of Michigan Health Frankel Cardiovascular Center.

SEE ALSO: Rising food prices hit less-healthy older adults hardest, poll suggests (uofmhealth.org)

"We believe there is a two-way relationship here. Individuals who are food insecure may have increased risk for cardiovascular disease, and vice versa. When one acquires heart disease, it impacts one's risk for developing socioeconomic problems that could reduce access to adequate and quality food. Food insecurity can often occur with other social determinants of health, such as poor transportation access or access to healthcare, which further compounds this relationship."

Headlines from the frontlines: The power of scientific discovery harnessed and delivered to your inbox every week. Subscribe to the Michigan Health Lab blog newsletter

In the overall population, Black and Hispanic adults were more likely to report food insecurity. Since 2011, 24% of Hispanic adults and 18% of Black adults were food insecure, compared to 8% of Asian adults and 13% of white adults.

If we are serious about promoting health, healthcare providers need to ensure people have access to healthy foods and don't go hungry.
Tammy Chang, M.D., M.P.H., M.S.

Researchers conclude that cardiovascular disease is associated with a higher risk for food insecurity. Those adults were more than two times likely to be food insecure than those without the cardiovascular 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. In this broader viewpoint, having had a cardiovascular event could have a major impact on one's social circumstance that places them at risk for food insecurity and other socioeconomic difficulties."

Cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of death in the United States, and diet is the greatest contributor to death from such disease – accounting for over 400,000 deaths in 2016, according to The US Burden of Disease Collaborators.

Those experiencing food insecurity are more likely to shoulder a greater burden from diet-related cardiovascular disease. They are also more likely to be stressed and not take prescription medication to treat cardiometabolic risk factors, such as diabetes and high blood pressure.

As food insecurity remains a potent social determinant of health, researchers say it's important for clinicians and health systems to use validated screening techniques to detect food insecurity among patients.

SEE ALSO: Even Before COVID-19, Many Adults Lacked Stable Food Supply (uofmhealth.org)

"Healthcare providers can impact the health and overall wellbeing of their patients by addressing food insecurity," said co-author Tammy Chang, M.D., M.P.H., M.S., family physician at U-M Health and co-director of the National Clinician Scholars Program at the U-M Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation.

"More patients than you may think are impacted by food insecurity. A team-based approach including social workers, case managers and social service departments can help patients get connected with local resources. If we are serious about promoting health, healthcare providers need to ensure people have access to healthy foods and don't go hungry."

Live your healthiest life: Get tips from top experts weekly. Subscribe to the Michigan Health blog newsletter

Like Podcasts? Add the Michigan Medicine News Break on Spotify, Apple Podcasts or anywhere you listen to podcasts.

Additional authors include, Cindy Leung, Sc.D., M.P.H., John Z. Ayanian, M.D., M.P.P., Brahmajee K. Nallamothu, M.D., M.P.H., all of Michigan Medicine

Paper cited: "Food Insecurity Among those with Cardiovascular Disease and Cardiometabolic Risk Factors Across Race/Ethnicity from 1999-2018," JAMA Cardiology. DOI: 10.1001/jamacardio.2022.3729

On Sept. 28, 2022 the federal government hosted the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health - the first such event in over 50 years. The conference is intended to "catalyze the public and private sectors around a coordinated strategy to accelerate progress and drive transformative change in the U.S. to end hunger, improve nutrition and physical activity, and close the disparities surrounding them," according the the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

More Articles About: Lab Report Heart disease Community Health Nutrition Wellness and Prevention Cardiovascular: Diseases & Conditions
Health Lab word mark overlaying blue cells
Health Lab

Explore a variety of healthcare news & stories by visiting the Health Lab home page for more articles.

Media Contact Public Relations

Department of Communication at Michigan Medicine

[email protected]


Stay Informed

Want top health & research news weekly? Sign up for Health Lab’s newsletters today!

Featured News & Stories stethoscope in gun outline
Health Lab
Many primary care providers and patients wary of discussing firearms
Screening primary care patients for gun ownership has been recommended especially for people with mental health issues. A Michigan Medicinestudy shows wariness by providers and patients.
kids on the floor
Health Lab
Protecting children from poor air quality: 6 things to know
As smoke from Canada's historic wildfires triggers poor air quality alerts across the country, many parents worry about the impact on their child’s health, a national poll suggests. Here, a Michigan Medicine expert provides six ways to help reduce exposure.
bacteria black background yellow cell
Health Lab
The surprising origin of a deadly hospital infection
Surprising findings from a Michigan Medicine study in Nature Medicine suggest that the burden of C. diff infection may be less a matter of hospital transmission and more a result of characteristics associated with the patients themselves.
man looking at guns clerk store
Health Lab
High rate of mental health problems and political extremism found in those who bought firearms during COVID pandemic
Firearm purchases rose during the pandemic and a survey shows high rates of mental health issues and political extremism among those who bought guns during 2020 and 2021.
cancer cell
Health Lab
Language barriers in cancer care
Research from experts at Michigan Medicine shows that significant language-based disparities exist in patients’ access to cancer care services, and it’s well before their first appointment with a doctor. 
cars jammed on highway
Health Lab
Nearly one-fifth of older adults travel 50-plus miles to see a neurologist
A Michigan Medicine study finds older Americans with complex neurologic conditions travel may travel great distances for care, many of whom live in rural areas or regions with a limited number of specialists.