Erectile dysfunction linked to increased heart risks

Erectile dysfunction may be a sign of heart problems in future, the study found. http://www.flickr.com/photos/biggreymare

Men with severe erectile dysfunction are 60% more likely to be hospitalised for coronary heart disease and twice as likely to die prematurely than men with no erectile problems, a new study has found.

Even minor erectile problems could be an indicator of future heart risks, according to a paper on the study published in the journal PLOS Medicine today.

The authors of the study examined data from the 45 and Up Study, which tracked 95,038 men aged 45 years and older.

“We adjusted for a large number of known cardiovascular disease risk factors, such as age, smoking, diabetes, obesity and so on. The ability of erectile dysfunction to predict this 60% increase in coronary heart disease and doubling of risk in premature death is over and above those other risk factors,” lead author and 45 and Up Study Scientific Director, Professor Emily Banks said.

The researchers concluded that even mild erectile problems could hint at an increased risk of cardiovascular disease in future.

“Because we found this gradient in risk, it means you can extrapolate further back along that curve to say, ‘If you have mild erectile dysfunction, you are likely to have a mild increase in risk’,” Professor Banks said.

The erectile dysfunction does not cause the heart disease but may be an early indicator of the problems that lead to it, such as a build-up of plaque in the arteries, she said.

“It’s got quite serious practical implications. If men have erectile dysfunction, they really need to take action by going to their GP and having a heart check. They have an opportunity to take action before it’s too late.”

Dr Doug Lording, Endocrinologist and Andrologist, Cabrini Hospital and Honorary Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine at Monash University said the new study adds to the already convincing data to confirm that erectile dysfunction is a predictor of future cardiovascular disease.

“This association has also been shown in a Western Australian study to hold for younger men in their 20s and 30s. In diabetic men, erectile dysfunction has been shown to be a predictor of significant ‘silent’ coronary artery disease,” said Dr Lording, who was not involved in the 45 and Up study.

“Men who develop erectile dysfunction should talk to their local doctor, even if they are not interested in restoring sexual function.”