Food insecurity linked to higher risk of cardiovascular deat
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Increasing rates of food insecurity in counties across the U.S. are independently associated with an increase in cardiovascular death rates among adults between the ages of 20 and 64, according to preliminary research to be presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2020.

“This study is one of the first national analyses to look at changes in both food insecurity and cardiovascular mortality over time, and to see if changes in food insecurity impact cardiovascular health,” said study author. “This research shows food insecurity, which is a particular type of economic distress, is associated with cardiovascular disease. It illustrates that cardiovascular health is tied to many things. It’s more than doctors’ visits, screenings, medications and procedures; what is going on outside the clinic, in society, has a significant impact on patients’ health, too.”

Researchers accessed both the National Center for Health Statistics and the Map the Meal Gap study to analyze county-level data on cardiovascular death rates and food insecurity rates that occurred from 2011 to 2017, among adults age 20 to 64, and those 65 years old and older.

In their analysis, researchers examined cardiovascular mortality trends in the U.S. by average annual percent change in food insecurity. They assessed the relationship between changes in food insecurity and cardiovascular death rates, after adjusting for variables including changes in demographics, employment, poverty, income, health insurance and other factors already known to affect cardiovascular risk.

Among the key findings:

-- Overall, food insecurity rates for the entire country declined significantly (from 14.7% to 13.3%) between 2011 and 2017.

-- The level in which food insecurity changes was a significant predictor of death for people between the ages of 20 and 64. U.S. counties that had the most increase in food insecurity levels had cardiovascular death rates that increased from 82 to 87 per 100,000 population. Counties that had a decrease in food insecurity had a cardiovascular mortality rate that remained stable at 60 per 100,000 population.

-- Cardiovascular death rates remained much higher among the elderly (age more than 65) than for people 64 and younger, yet the rate of deaths did decline at all levels: from 1,643 to 1,542 per 100,000 population among those who experienced the most change in food insecurity levels, and from 1,408 to 1,338 per 100,000 population among those who had the least change. The changes were not scientifically significant.

-- For every 1% increase in food insecurity, there was a similar increase in cardiovascular mortality among non-elderly adults (0.83%).

“Overall, food insecurity rates did go down. However, while economic levels have improved when the country is measured as a whole, there has been a growing disparity demonstrating that parts of the country are being left behind,” said author.

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