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In a study​ published last month in JAMA Cardiology, cross-departmental researchers from the University of Michigan found the prevalence of food insecurity among those with cardiovascular disease increased to 38.1% in 2017 to 2018 from 16.3% in 1999 to 2000. The study also found cardiovascular disease and cardiometabolic disease, except coronary artery disease, were prevalent among those with food insecurity.

Their findings are based on a sample of more than 57,500 adults participating in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Of these, 7.9% suffered cardiovascular disease, and 11.8% struggled with food insecurity in general. However, the authors were quick to note that food insecurity increased across the study period from 8.2% to 10.2% before the Great Recession in 1999 to 2006 and 10.5% to 13.3% during the Great Recession in 2007 to 2010. It continued to climb to 18.2% to 18.5% in 2015 to 2018.

“This finding highlights the strength of the association between food insecurity and CVD,”​ which “we anticipate … is bidirectional wherein food insecurity likely increases risk for CVD and CVD affects socioeconomic factors that increase risk for food insecurity,”​ the researchers note.

Based on this correlation and the risk it suggests, the researchers call on clinicians and the health care system to recognize the impact of social determinants of health, such as food insecurity, through screening tools.

“After identification, food insecurity can be addressed through a team-based approach that incorporates referral to social workers, caseworkers, or state social service departments for individuals to apply for food programs,”​ such as the Supplement Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps, they argue.

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