Erectile dysfunction linked to increased risk of heart disease

Henrietta Strickland
June 12, 2018

Other risk factors, such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure, did not play a role in the findings. Even after accounting for these factors, they found that erectile dysfunction contributed independently to a higher risk of heart problems.

The findings, derived from almost 2,000 men, back up an array of evidence in recent years that has shown a link between ED and heart disease.

This study found that impotence on its own is a significant risk factor. In the latest study, Dr. Michael Blaha, director of clinical research for the Johns Hopkins Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease, and his colleagues did the most rigorous analysis yet to account for the potentially confounding factors.

The study was published on June 11 in the American Heart Association's journal Circulation.

ED, which can be triggered by high blood pressure and cholesterol, strikes one in ten men at some point in their lives.

"Health care providers should consider including ED as a component of assessing cardiovascular risk among middle-aged men", said Becker, a professor of medicine at the University of Cincinnati who was not involved with the study. "It is incredible how many men avoid the doctor and ignore early signs of cardiovascular disease, but present for the first time with a chief complaint of ED". The disease has previously been linked to diabetes, Parkinson's disease, and multiple sclerosis.

How Did Researchers Find This Cardiovascular Connection?

In the study, researchers examined 1,900 men between the ages of 60 to 78 years old.

Study participants were enrolled in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis, conducted in several US cities.

During the four-year follow-up in the study, there were a total of 115 fatal and non-fatal heart attacks, fatal and non-fatal strokes, cardiac arrests and sudden cardiac deaths.

The researchers adjusted for the effects of obesity, smoking, high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels, among other factors, which can contribute to both erectile dysfunction and heart disease.

A greater proportion of men who reported ED (6.3 per cent) suffered heart attacks, cardiac arrests or strokes than men who didn't report it (2.6 per cent).

Health officials in the United Kingdom last year incorporated ED in the risk-scoring algorithm used by doctors to assess a patient's 10-year cardiovascular risk.

"I think we can say with certainty now that erectile dysfunction has an independent risk predictor value above the routine risk factors like smoking, cholesterol and blood pressure", says Blaha.

Dr Blaha added that men seeking treatment and evaluation for ED should be a signal to conduct a comprehensive cardiovascular evaluation. Meanwhile, urologists treating men with ED should refer the patients to cardiologists.

Sometimes, men will seek treatments for ED as a way to treat the heart problems. However, ED treatment is not considered the same as cardiovascular treatment.

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