AUSTIN, Texas (August 5, 2020) — Housing instability is bad for your heart, according to a new scientific statement from the American Heart Association.
Homeless service providers know that housing is healthcare, and the AHA’s summary of research provides more evidence that a lack of access to safe, stable housing increases the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD).
“Epidemiological data suggest that adults who are homeless experience 60% to 70% higher rates of cardiovascular events,” including heart attacks and strokes, “compared with the general population,” the statement reads.
The AHA identifies several major factors that may contribute to the increased risk for CVD and cardiovascular events.
First, people experiencing homelessness have less access to medical care: “Timely diagnosis of CVD may be difficult in this population because of barriers to care, need for testing sometimes over several days, medication initiation and adherence, and access to healthy foods,” the authors write.
Second, people experiencing housing instability face barriers, or “competing stressors,” that can complicate CVD care, including “the need to obtain nightly shelter, food, and clothing.”
“Suboptimal sleep is likely to be common among” people experiencing homelessness, the statement reads. “Given recent evidence for the association of poor sleep with cardiovascular risk, this may be an important modifiable factor for this population.”
Third, living unsheltered makes finding and obtaining treatment more difficult.
Several studies, the statement notes, found people facing housing insecurity are “less likely to have a usual source of care” and “less likely to seek medical care of prescription medications because of cost.”
People experiencing homelessness also have less access to health insurance and more difficulty in storing medications. Heart health is important for overall quality of life, and it’s clear from this research that housing instability is bad for your heart.
These findings hold true for many types of medical conditions. As the National Health Care for the Homeless Council states: “Simply being without a home is a dangerous health condition.