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Experts identify link between food insecurity and heightened risk of cardiovascular disease

Helping communities most affected by food insecurity could have lasting benefits

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Photo (c) IgorBukhlin - Getty Images
Recent studies have highlighted how limited access to food can affect consumers in a myriad of ways, including increasing the risk of obesity and premature death, and negatively affecting kids in the classroom and their overall development

Now, a new study conducted by researchers from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine has found that food insecurity is also linked with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. 

“This research gives us a better understanding of the connection between economic distress and cardiovascular disease,” said researcher Dr. Sameed Khatana. “What’s going on outside the clinic has significant impact on patients’ health. There are many factors beyond the medication we may be prescribing that can influence their well-being, food insecurity being one of them.” 

Improving food access

To understand how food insecurity could lead to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, the researchers analyzed data from both the Map the Meal Gap study and the National Center for Health Statistics. The study broke down six years worth of data about food insecurity and subsequent health outcomes on a county-by-county basis across the country. 

The researchers observed a direct link between increased food insecurity and more cases of cardiovascular disease. They found that the risk of cardiovascular disease was nearly 90 percent higher per 100,000 people in areas where food insecurity was most prevalent. 

Food insecurity has been on the rise since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. On top of concerns about infection, experts have found that more consumers are struggling to put food on the table for their families. Moving forward, the researchers plan to see if targeting food insecurity in the communities most affected by it could benefit heart health outcomes. 

“There has been a growing disparity when it comes to food insecurity, and this data demonstrates that parts of the country are being left behind,” said Dr. Khatana. “Unfortunately, this may only get worse as the country grapples with the ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, interventions that improve a community’s economic well-being could potentially lead to improved community cardiovascular health.” 

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